Part 3 out of 5
"Jimgrim says, 'Be quiet!'" I answered.
There was another uproar. Ali Shah al Khassib openly took the
part of Abdul Ali. A dozen men demanded to know how much he had
been paid to do it. Finally, Suliman ben Saoud beckoned me. I
got up, and with Mahommed ben Hamza at my heels I followed him to
a narrow door in a side wall that opened on a stone stairway
leading to the ramparts. Anazeh' came too, growling like a
hungry bear, and after a couple of blood-curdling threats hurled
at Suliman ben Saoud's back he took up position in the open door,
facing the crowd, and dared any one to try to follow. He seemed
to have confidence in Mahommed ben Hamza's ability to protect me,
if necessary, on the roof.
The roof and ramparts appeared deserted. They were in the
ruinous state to which the Turks reduce everything by sheer
neglect, and in which Arabs, blaming the Turks, seemed quite
disposed to leave things. The Ichwan led the way to the
southwest corner, peering about him to make sure no guards were
in hiding, or asleep behind projecting buttresses. Overhead the
kites were wheeling against a pure blue sky. The Dead Sea lay
and smiled below us, with the gorgeous, treeless Judean Hills
beyond. Through the broken window of the hall came the clamour
of arguing men.
"O, Jimgrim!" grinned Mahommed ben Hamza when we reached
Grim turned and faced us with folded arms, leaning his back
against the parapet.
Ben Hamza continued: "You are a very prince of dare-devils! One
word from me--one little word, and they would fling you down into
the moat for the vultures to feed on!"
"I remember a time," Grim answered, "when a word from me saved
you from hanging."
"True, father of good fortune! But a man must laugh. I
will hold my tongue in El-Kerak like a tomb that has not
"You'd better! You've work to do. Where are your men?"
"All where I can find them."
"Good. You'll get turned out of the mejlis presently. Look down
into the moat now."
We all peered over. The lower ramp of the wall sloped steeply,
but all the way up the sharp southwest corner the stones were
broken out, and a goat, or a very active man could find foothold.
"Could you climb that?"
"Surely. Remember, Jimgrim, when I climbed the wall of El-Kudz
(Jerusalem) to escape from the police!"
"Bring your men into the moat between dark and moonrise. Have a
long rope with you--a good one. You and two men climb up here
and hide. The remainder wait below. Oh, yes; and bring a wheat
sack--a new, strong one. You may have to wait for several hours.
When you see me, take your cue from me; but whatever happens, no
murder! You understand? Nobody's to be killed."
Ben Hamza grinned and nodded. He seemed to be one of those good-
natured rogues who ask nothing better than the sheer sport of
lawless hero-worship. He would have made a perfect chief of
staff for any brigand, provided the brigand took lots of chances.
"You'll be killed, if anybody finds you up here after dark! You
Grim nodded. He was good at trusting people, when he had to, and
when the selection was his own.
"Affairs seem to be drifting nicely," he said, turning to me.
"It's best not to let Anazeh know who I am just yet, if that can
be helped. But if you must, when the time comes, you'll have to
tell him. Do keep him sober. After the evening prayer there'll
be a banquet; if he gets drunk we're done for. I'm going to
make you out an awful leper, if you don't mind. They may yell
for your hide and feathers before I've finished, but Anazeh will
protect you. If he leaves the hall in a huff, don't make any
bones about going with him. Let him ride out of town and wait
for me about two miles down the track, at the point where that
tomb stands above a narrow pass between two big rocks. Do you
"What if he won't wait?"
"He must! Tell him I'll have a prisoner with me; then he'll be
curious. But you can bet on old Anazeh when he's sober. But
things may turn out so that it's simpler for you to stay and see
this through with me. In that case you must persuade him to go
without you, after explaining to him just where he's to wait."
"How shall I do that?" I said. "I haven't enough Arabic."
"I'll write it," he answered. "Give me that pencil."
"Say something, too, then about his keeping sober."
Grim nodded, and wrote quite a long letter in Arabic on a page of
"The next move," he said, as I pocketed the letter, "is for me to
get Abdul Ali's goat: I think--and I hope--he'll try to bribe
me. If he does, he's my meat! The whole question of raid or no
raid hangs on their confidence in him. If I throw suspicion on
him, and he disappears directly afterwards, they'll abandon the
plan, confiscate his goods and chattels, and quarrel among
themselves instead of raiding Palestine. Get me?"
"Um-n-yes. I've sat on a horse I was warned against--felt
safer--and gone to hospital at that."
"No hospitals up here! It'll be soon over if they get wise to
us. But I think we're all right; and you're almost certainly
safe. But don't be tempted to talk. Well--we've been up here
long enough for me to have put you through the third degree.
Better look a bit uncomfortable as you go down, as if I'd got
under your skin with some awkward questions. You, too, ben
Hamza; don't grin; look afraid."
"I am not at all afraid, Jimgrim. But I will try."
Grim studied for a moment.
"Don't forget," he added, "at the first suggestion that you're
not wanted, make yourself scarce, and go and round up your men.
If you're thrown out pretty roughly, keep your temper and run."
"Taht il-amr!" (Yours to command.)
"Come on, then. Let's go."
The sun was fairly low over the Judean Hills as we turned down
the narrow stairs and found Anazeh waiting at the bottom.
"Feet downwards, too afraid to yell!"--
Abdul Ali of Damascus was holding the floor again when we
returned. He had abandoned the cold air of mysterious authority
and secrets in reserve. His claim to backstairs influence having
been challenged, he had resorted to the emotional appeal that is
the simplest means of controlling any crowd of men anywhere. The
demagog who can find a million men all responsive to the same
emotion can swing them as easily as a hundred if he knows his
business. Loot was the tune he harped, with the old Ishmael
blood-lust by way of obbligato.
He had them by the heart-strings, and there were long-necked
bottles of liquor that smelt of aniseed being passed from hand to
hand. We returned to our places almost unnoticed, and within the
minute some one handed a full bottle to Anazeh; the accompanying
cup was big enough to hold any ordinary drunkard's breakfast, and
the old sheikh's eyes admired the size of it.
I laid my hand on the wrist that held the bottle. He shook it
off angrily, and began to pour. Grim, over the way, looked
anxious. It was up to me to play this hand, so I led my ace
Suddenly, and very clumsily, I rocked sideways to reach my hip-
pocket, contriving to jog his elbow and spill what was already in
the cup. He turned his head to curse savagely, and I showed him
the folded sheet from my notebook. His name was on it in Arabic:
"Sheikh Anazeh ben Mahmoud, from Jimgrim."
He seized it, setting the bottle down between his feet, where it
was instantly reached for by some one else and handed down the
line. Reading was evidently not Anazeh's favorite amusement, but
he knitted his brows over the letter and wrestled with it word by
word, while Abdul Ali's fiery declamation made the vaulted roof
resound. I could only make out snatches of the appeal to
savagery--a word and a sentence here and there.
"Who are you, princes? Men with swords, or slaves who must
obey?--Raid over the Jordan twenty thousand strong!--What are
Jews? Shall Jews take the home of your ancestors? Who says so?
--Let the Jews be buried in the land they come to steal!--You say
the Jews are cleverer than you. Cut their heads off, then they
"When did Jimgrim give you this?" Anazeh demanded, folding the
letter and stowing it in his bosom.
"That is the message that I told you would come later if
"Do you know what is in the message?"
"No." That was perfectly true. I had talked with Grim, but had
not read what he had written.
"He wishes me to go and wait for him in a certain place"
"Why not do it?"
"True-believers! Followers of the Prophet! Sons of warrior
kings!" thundered Abdul Ali. "Will you do nothing to help
Feisul, a lineal descendant of the Prophet? You have helped him
to a throne. Now strike to hold him there!"
"Jimgrim says, I may go away and leave you here," growled Anazeh.
"What say you?"
"Ala khatrak. (Please yourself.) Jimgrim is wise."
"He is the father of wisdom. Mashallah! I will consider it.
There will be a banquet presently!"
"And loot! You can help yourselves!" shouted Abdul Ali of
Damascus. Then he sat down amid a storm of applause. Suliman
ben Saoud--Jimgrim--was on his feet before the tumult died away,
and again they grew perfectly still to listen to him. If an
Arab loves anything under heaven more than his own style of
fighting, it is the action and reaction of debate. I could
not understand a word of the mid-Arabian dialect, but Abdul
Ali's retorts were plain enough; and from the way that Grim
pointed at me and Mahommed ben Hamza it was fairly easy to
follow what was happening.
He denounced me as possibly dangerous, and wondered why they
permitted me to have an interpreter, who could whisper to me
everything that was being said.
"Put out the interpreter!" sneered Abdul Ali, and there was a
chorus of approval. Mahommed ben Hamza got up and hurried for
the door while the hurrying was good and painless to himself,
though it was hardly that to other people; forcing his way
between the close-packed notables he kicked more than one of them
pretty badly and grinned when they cursed him. I saw Abdul Ali
of Damascus whisper to one of his rose-coloured parasites, who
got up at once and made his way toward the door, too.
"The fellow is from Hebron," Abdul Ali sneered in a voice loud
enough for all to hear. "It is best that he should not go back
to Hebron to tell tales! I have attended to it."
My blood ran cold. I tried to catch Grim's eye, but he would not
look in my direction. I wondered whether he had heard Abdul
Ali's threat. It seemed to me that if Mahommed ben Hamza were
either murdered or imprisoned Grim's whole chance of success was
gone. The danger would be multiplied tenfold. Anazeh seemed the
only remaining hope. The old-rose individual who followed ben
Hamza had not reached the door yet.
"How about your men?" I asked.
"They are all right." Anazeh's eyes pursued the liquor bottle.
"Why not go and see?" I suggested.
"Ilhamdul'illah, they are good men. I know them. If there is
trouble they will come and tell me."
The door opened softly. The gorgeous old-rose parasite slipped
through. I had a mental vision of Mahommed ben Hamza lying face-
downward with his new coat stained with blood. There was nothing
for it, it seemed, but the magic formula to move Anazeh.
"Jimgrim says, 'See that ben Hamza gets safely away!"'
"Dog of a Hebron tanner's son--let him die! What is that to me?"
"It is Jimgrim's command."
"Wallahi haida fasl! (By God, this is a strange affair!) Wait
Old Anazeh, with the name of the Prophet of God on his lips, cast
an envious glare at the bottle of liquor and seized action by the
forelock. There was nothing to excite comment in his getting up
to leave the room. A dozen men had done that and come in again.
He strode out, straight down the middle of the carpet. Suliman
ben Saoud--Jimgrim--went on talking, and to judge by Abdul Ali of
Damascus' increasingly restless retorts he was getting that
gentleman's goat as promised. Finally Abdul Ali got to his feet
and said that if the Ichwan would see him alone he would show him
certain documents that would satisfy him, but that it would not
be policy to produce them in public. He offered to send for the
documents, and to show them during or after the banquet.
So Jimgrim sat down, and there was a good deal of quiet nudging
and nodding. Every one seemed to understand that the Ichwan was
going to be bribed; they seemed to admire his ability to get for
himself a share of the funds that most of them had tapped.
A man nearly opposite me leaned over and said in fairly good
French, with the manner of a doctor assuring his patient that the
worst is yet to come:
"It has been decided that you are to be detained here in the castle
until there is no danger of your carrying away important news."
While I was turning that over in my mind Anazeh came back,
grinning. Something outside had tickled him immensely, but he
would not say anything. He sat down beside me and chuckled into
his beard; and when his neighbour on the right asked what had
amused him he turned the question into a bawdy joke.
"Did ben Hamza get away?" I whispered.
He only nodded. He continued chuckling until the man on duty by
the door announced to the "assembled lords and princes" that the
muezzin summoned them to prayer. All except three Christian
sheikhs trooped up the narrow stairway in Ali Shah al Khassib's
wake, Anazeh going last with a half-serious joke about not caring
to be stabbed in the back.
I expected the three non-Moslems would take advantage of the
opportunity to ask me a string of questions. But they took
exactly the opposite view of the situation. They avoided me,
withdrawing into a corner by themselves. I suppose they
thought that to be seen talking to me was more risky than the
So I went up to the ramparts, too, to watch the folk at prayer,
minded to keep out of sight, for they don't like being regarded
as a curious spectacle; and on the way up I did something that
may have had a lot to do with our getting away alive, although I
did not give much thought to it and could hardly have explained
my motive at the time.
The door at the foot of the stairs opened inward. It was almost
exactly the same width as the stairway, so that when it stood
wide open you could not have put your hand between its edge and
the stairway wall. Lying on the floor of the hall within a few
feet of the nearest corner was a length of good sound olive-wood,
about three inches in thickness, roughly squared and not
particularly squared. Having stepped on it accidentally, I
picked it up, and discovered more by accident than intention that
it was longer than the width of the stairway. Then I noticed a
notch in the stairway wall. Behind the opened door there was a
deeper notch in the opposite wall. There was no lock on the
door, no bolt. That length of wood had been cut to fit
horizontally from notch to notch across the passage. Once that
beam was fitted in its place, whoever wished to reach the roof
would have to burn or batter down the door. I moved the door and
placed the length of olive-wood on end behind it.
I found the view from the ramparts much more interesting than the
soul-saving formalities of eighty or so potential cut-throats.
While they prayed I stood watching the shadows deepen in the
Jordan Valley, as no doubt Joshua once watched them from
somewhere near that same spot before he marshalled his invading
host. You could understand why people who had wandered forty
years in a stark and howling wilderness should yearn for those
coloured, fertile acres between the Jordan and the sea: why they
should be willing to fight for them, die for them, do anything
rather than turn back.
By the time we had filed down--Anazeh last again--the servants
had nearly finished spreading a banquet. What looked like bed-
sheets had been laid along the strip of carpet, and, the whole
length of them was piled with all imaginable things to eat, from
cakes and fruit to whole sheep roasted and seethed in camel's
milk and honey. There were no less than six sheep placed at
intervals along the "table," with mountains of rice, scow-loads
of apricots cooked in various ways, and a good sized flock of
chickens spitted and smeared with peppery sauce. At a guess, I
should say there were several pounds of meat, about two chickens,
and a peck of rice per man, with apricots and raisins added; but
they faced the prospect like heroes.
Perhaps what helped them face it was the sight of sundry bottles
bearing labels more familiar in the West. Abdul Ali of Damascus,
licking his lips like a cat that smells canary, took his place on
a cushion up near the window again on the right of Ali Shah al
Khassib, who was only the nominal host. Abdul Ali left no doubt
in anybody's mind as to who was paying for the feast. It was he
who gave orders to the servants in a bullying tone of voice; he
who begged every one be seated.
Anazeh looked at the bottles of brandy--looked at me--and prayed
under his breath; or, at any rate, it looked and sounded like a
prayer. He may have been swearing. He and I were not very far
from the door; the seats near the head of the table had all been
taken. I sat down at once, so as not to be conspicuous, but
Anazeh remained standing so long that at last Abdul Ali called to
him to sit down and eat his fill, using the offensively
magnanimous tone of voice that some men can achieve without an
effort. I think Anazeh had been waiting for just that opening.
"I have twenty men outside," he announced. "Shall I eat, and
"This is a feast for notables," said Abdul Ali.
"A little bread with my own men is better than meat and drink at
a traitor's table," Anazeh answered. "Wallahi! (By God!) I go to
eat with honest men!" He laid a hand on my head. "Ye have said
this effendi must stay in the castle. Well and good. Whoever
harms him or offers him indignity shall answer to me and my men
for it!" He bowed to me like a king taking leave of his court.
"Lailtak sa'idi. Allah yifazak, effendi!" (Good night. God keep
you, effendi!) With that he stalked out, and the door slammed
shut behind him. Everybody, including Abdul Ali, laughed.
The banquet was a boresome business--an interminable competition
to see who could eat and drink the most. With my interpreter
gone, and everybody else too busy guzzling to trouble to speak
distinctly for my benefit, I had to depend on my ayes for
information and naturally used them to the utmost. I noticed
that Abdul All of Damascus, Jimgrim Suliman ben Saoud and myself
were the only men in the room, servants included, who ate and
drank within the bounds of decency and reason. One of the
servants, walking up and down the table-cloth with brandy and
relays of vegetables, was drunk very early in the game and had to
be thrown out.
Abdul Ali kept conversation going on the subject of the raid.
The more the brandy bottles circulated the easier he found it to
keep enthusiasm burning. He talked about me, too, several times,
and every time that subject cropped up all eyes turned in my
direction. I think he was making the most of the school idea,
mixing up the raid with education and serving the mixture hot, as
it were, with brandy sauce.
But over the way, about half-way down the table, the Ichwan
Suliman ben Saoud, dead-cold-sober and abstemious, as befitted a
fanatic, was talking, too. He was quite evidently talking
against Abdul Ali, so that the Damascene kept looking at him with
a troubled expression. He glanced frequently at the door, too,
as if he expected some one who could put an end to Suliman ben
But it was a long time before the door opened and the second of
his old-rose parasites came in. I had not noticed until then
that the man was missing. He thrust a packet of some sort into
Abdul Ali's hands. He whispered. The Damascene's face darkened
instantly, and he swore like a pirate. Then, I suppose because
he had to vent his wrath on somebody, he shouted to me in German
all down the length of the table:
"Your cursed interpreter has nearly killed my secretary! He
struck him in the mouth and knocked all his teeth out. What
courteous servants you employ!"
"What was your secretary trying to do to him?" I retorted, but he
saw fit not to answer that. He poured some more brandy instead
for Ali Shah al Khassib.
So that was what Anazeh had been laughing at! The old humourist
had either seen the fracas, or had come on the injured old-rose
messenger of death nursing a damaged face. I began to share
Grim's good opinion of ben Hamza. But though I watched Grim's
face, and knew that he knew German, I could not detect a trace of
interest. He kept on talking against Abdul Ali until after ten
o'clock. By that time most of the notables were about as full as
they could hold. Those who were not too drunk appeared ready for
anything in or out of reason.
At that stage of the proceedings they ushered in the dancing
girls. The servants cleared away most of the food, removed the
table-cloths, and a ring was formed practically all around the
room, the notables leaning their backs against the wall to ease
overworked bellies. I set my cushion down next to a very drunken
man just by the narrow door that opened on the stairway leading
to the ramparts. He fell asleep with his head on my shoulder
within five minutes, and as that, for some subtle reason, seemed
to make me even more unnoticeable I let him snore away in peace.
Over in Abdul Ali's corner of the room there was a real council
of war going on in whispers. Opposite to him, ten paces or so
distant from me, Jimgrim Suliman ben Saoud was holding a rival
show. It seemed about an even bet which was making greater
headway. Those who were more or less drunk, and all the younger
sheikhs had eyes and ears for nothing but the dancing girls.
They were outrageous hussies. They wore more clothes than a
Broadway chorus lady, and rather less paint, but if they were
symbols of the Moslem paradise (as a learned Arab once assured me
that they are meant to be) then, as I answered the Arab on that
occasion, "me for hell." But none of those sheikhs had ever seen
Broadway, so you could hardly blame them.
Abdul Ali of Damascus seemed to have his arrangements with the
men in his corner cinched at last to his satisfaction. He walked
a little unsteadily across the room, apparently to make his peace
with Suliman ben Saoud. He held brazenly in one hand a leather
wallet that bulged with paper money--doubtless the "documents"
that he had sent for. He nodded to me as he passed with
more familiarity than he had any right to, since he had so
ostentatiously dismissed me to the dogs. I suppose he felt so
sure of "convincing" Suliman ben Saoud, and was so bent on
offsetting the reaction caused by Anazeh's behavior that he had
been reviving that project about the school and therefore chose
to appear on intimate terms with me. I met him more than
half-way; any one who cared to might believe I loved him like
He stood in front of Suliman ben Saoud, rocking just a trifle
from the effects of alcohol and smoke, and there was about five
minutes' conversation of which, although I missed a lot of it, I
caught the general drift. The men who had come under the
Ichwan's influence kept joining in and raising objections. I
gathered that they expected a proportionate percentage of the
bribe for which Suliman ben Saoud was supposed to be maneuvering.
But even Abdul Ali, with a pouch of paper money in his hand, was
not quite so barefaced as to bribe the Ichwan publicly. At the
end of five minutes he suggested a private talk on the parapet.
Suliman ben Saoud rose with apparent reluctance. Abdul Ali of
Damascus took his arm. It was Suliman ben Saoud who opened the
narrow door, and Abdul Ali who went through first. I did not
wait for any invitation, but let my snoring neighbor fall on his
side, hurried through after them, and closed the door behind me.
Groping for the stick in the dark, I jammed it into the notches.
It fitted perfectly. It held the door immovable and barred
that stairway against all-comers. Then I followed them to
The moon was about full and bathing the whole roof, and all the
countryside in liquid light. There was a certain amount of mist
lower down, and you could only make out the Dead Sea through it
here and there; but up where we were, and even in the moat
eighty feet below us, it was almost like daylight without the
glare and heat. I leaned over, but could see nobody in the moat,
and there was no sign of Mahommed ben Hamza.
Abdul Ali led the way toward the corner where Grim had given his
orders to ben Hamza that afternoon. Abdul Ali did not seem to
realize that I was following. When he turned at last, with his
back to the parapet and the moonlight full in his face, he
demanded in German:
"Wass machen Sie hier?"
I was about to answer him when there came a noise like
subterranean thunder from the mouth of the stairway. They were
trying to force that door below and follow us. The first words I
used were in English, for Grim's benefit:
"I stuck a stick in the door. I should say it's good for ten or
fifteen minutes unless they use explosives."
That gave the whole game away at once.
"So!" said Abdul Ali. He thrust the wallet into his bosom. With
the other hand he pulled out a repeating pistol. "So!"
Grim said never a word. He closed with him. In a second we were
all three struggling like madmen. The pistol was not cocked; I
managed to get hold of Abdul Ali's wrist and wrench the weapon
away before he could pull back the slide. Then we all three went
down together on the stone roof, Abdul Ali yelling like a maniac,
and Grim trying to squeeze the wind out of him. Even then, as we
rolled and fought, I could still hear the thundering on the door.
No doubt the noise they made prevented them from hearing Abdul
Ali's yells for help.
The man's strength was prodigious, although he was puffy and
short-winded. It began to look as if we would have to knock him
on the head to get control of him. But even so, there was no
rope--no sign of Mahommed ben Hamza and his men. You can think
of a lot of things while you fight for your life eighty miles
away from help. I wondered whether Grim would throw him over the
parapet, and whether we two would have to take our chance of
mountaineering down that ragged corner of the wall.
But suddenly about a hundred and eighty pounds of human brawn
landed feet-first on my back. A voice said "Taib,* Jimgrim!" and
two other men jumped after him from somewhere on the ruined wall
above us. In another second Abdul Ali was held hand and foot,
tied until he could not move, and then a wheat-sack was pulled
down over his head and made fast between his legs. [*All right.]
"You're late!" said Grim. "Quick! Where's the rope? Are your
The thundering on the door had ceased. Either they were coming
up the steps already, or had gone to reach the parapet some other
way. It did not occur to me, or for that matter to any of us in
the excitement of the minute, that they might be holding a
consultation below, or might even have abandoned the idea of
following, although I think now that must be the explanation, for
what we did took more time than it takes to set it down.
Ben Hamza made one end of the rope fast around Abdul Ali's feet.
He would not listen to argument. He said he knew his business,
and certainly the knot was workmanlike. Then he called over the
parapet (an Arab never whistles) and a voice answered from the
southern side of the moat, where some fallen stones cast a
shadow. Then the three of them lifted Abdul Ali over, and
lowered him head-first.
It was a slow business, for otherwise he would have been stunned
against the first projection. I thought that Grim looked almost
as nervous as I felt, but Mahommed ben Hamza was having the time
of his life, and could not keep his tongue still.
"Head upwards a man can yell," he explained to me, grinning from
ear to ear. "Feet upwards, too afraid to yell!" Then the
thundering on the door began again, louder than before it seemed
to me. They were using a battering-ram. But they were too late.
After what seemed like a long-drawn hour we saw shadowy arms
below reach up and seize our prisoner. Then the loose rope came
up again hand over hand.
"You next!" said Grim quietly. He pushed me forward, after
carefully examining the loop Mahommed ben Hamza tied in the end
of the rope.
"Money doesn't weigh much!"
Well--you don't stand on precedence or ceremony at times like
that. Over I went in the bight of the rope. They let me fall
about fifteen feet before they seemed to realize that I had let
go of the parapet. Added to all that had gone before, that made
about the climax of sensation. The pain of barking the skin of
knees and elbows against projecting angles of stone was a relief.
I am no man of iron. I haven't iron nerves. Not one second of
that descent was less than hell. I could hear the thunder of
some kind of battering-ram on the door at the foot of the stair.
I could imagine the rope chafing against the sharp edge of the
parapet as they paid it out hand over hand. The only thing that
made me keep my head at all was knowledge that Abdul Ali had had
to do the trip feet-upward, with his head in a bag. When they
let go too fast it was rather like the half-way stage of taking
chloroform. When they slowed up, there was the agonizing dread
of pursuit. And through it all there burned the torturing
suggestion that the rope might break.
Mother Earth felt good that night, when strong hands reached up
and lifted me out of the noose that failed of reaching the bottom
by about a man's height. Come to think of it, it wasn't mother
earth at that. It was the stinking carcass of a camel only half
autopsied by the vultures, that my feet first rested on--brother,
perhaps, to the beast I had put out of his agony that afternoon.
The others came down the rope hand-over-hand, Grim last. I
suppose he stayed up there with his pistol, ready for contingencies.
He had his nerve with him, for he had fastened the upper end of
the rope to a piece of broken stone laid across a gap that the
crusaders had made in the ramparts, centuries ago, for the Christian
purpose of pouring boiling oil and water on their foes. It did not
take more than a minute's violent shaking after he got down to bring
the rope tumbling on our heads.
Then the next thing he did was to take a look at the prisoner.
Finding him not much the worse for wear, barring some bruises and
a missing inch or two of skin, he ordered the bag pulled over his
head again and gave the order for retreat. Mahommed ben Hamza
went scouting ahead. The others picked up Abdul Ali as the
construction gangs handle baulks of timber--horizontal--face-
downward. When he wriggled they cuffed him into good behaviour.
You have to get down into an Arab moat before you can realize
what the Hebrews meant by their word Gehenna. The smell of
rotting carrion was only part of it. One stumbled into, and
through, and over things that should not be. Heaps, that looked
solid in the moonlight, yielded to the tread. Whatever liquid
lay there was the product of corruption.
Yet we did not dare to climb out of the moat until we reached the
shadows at the northern angle. Though the moonlight shone almost
straight down on us it was a great deal brighter up above, and
the walls cast some shadow. There was nothing for it but to pick
our way in the comparative gloom of that vulture's paradise,
praying we might find a stream to wade in presently.
Once, looking up behind me, I thought I saw men's heads peering
over the parapet, but that may have been imagination. Grim vowed
he did not see them, although I suspected him of saying that to
avoid a panic. He shepherded us along, speaking in a perfectly
normal voice whenever he had to, as if there were no such thing
as hurry in the world. When we reached the farther corner of the
moat it was he who climbed out first to con the situation. A
look-out in a bastion on the ruined town wall promptly fired
I expected him to fire back. I climbed up beside him to lend a
hand with the pistol I had filched from Abdul Ali. But Grim
shouted something about taking away for burial the corpse of a
man who had died of small-pox. The man on the wall commanded us
to Allah's mercy and warned us to beware lest we, too, catch that
"Inshallah!" Grim answered. Then he summoned our men from
They passed up Abdul Ali, dragging him feet-first again with one
man keeping a clenched fist ready to strike him in the mouth in
case he should forget that corpses don't cry out. He looked like
a corpse half-cold, as they carried him jerkily along a track
that roughly followed the line of the wall. I don't suppose that
anything ever looked more like an Arab funeral procession than we
did. The absence of noisy mourners, and the unusual hour of
night, were plausibly accounted for by the dreaded disease that
Grim had invented for the occasion. My golf-suit was the only
false note, but I kept in shadow as much as I could, with the
unseemly burden between me and the ramparts.
It was a long time before we had the town wall at our backs. A
funeral, in the circumstances, might justifiably be rapid; but
we could hardly run and keep up the pretense. But at last we
passed over the shoulder of a hill into shadow on the farther
side, and there was no more need of play-acting.
"Yalla bilagel!" [Run like the devil.] Grim ordered then, and we
obeyed him like sprinters attempting to lower a record.
Twelve men running through the night can make a lot of noise,
especially when they carry a heavy man between them. Our men
were all from Hebron. Hebron prides itself on training the
artfullest thieves in Asia. They boast of being able to steal
the bed from under a sleeper without waking him. But even the
stealthiest animals go crashing away from danger, and, now that
the worst of the danger lay behind, more or less panic seized all
Mahommed ben Hamza refused to follow the regular track, for fear
of ambush or a chance encounter in the dark. Grim let him have
his way. They dragged the wretched Abdul Ali like a sack of corn
by a winding detour, and wherever the narrow path turned sharply
to avoid great rocks they skidded him at the turn until he yelled
for mercy. Grim pulled off the sack at last, untied his arms and
legs, and let him walk; but whenever he lagged they frog-marched
At last we reached a brook where we all waded to get rid of the
filth and smell from that infernal moat, and Abdul Ali seized
that opportunity to play his last cards. Considering Ben Hamza's
reputation, the obvious type of his nine ruffians, the darkness
and rough handling, it said a lot for Grim's authority that Abdul
Ali still had that wallet-full of money in his possession.
Sitting on a stone in the moonlight, he pulled it out. His nerve
was a politician's, cynical, simple. Its simplicity almost took
your breath away.
"How many men from Hebron?" he demanded.
"Ten. Well and good. I have here ten thousand piastres--one
thousand for each of you, or divide it how you like. That is
the price I will pay you to let me go. What can these other
two do to you? Take the money and run. Leave me to settle with
Ben Hamza, knee-deep in the brook, laughed aloud as he eyed the
money. He made a gesture so good-humoured, so full of
resignation and regret and broad philosophy that you would have
liked the fellow even if he hadn't saved your life.
"Deal with those two first!" he grinned. "I would have taken
your money long ago, but that I know Jimgrim! He would have made
me give it up again."
"Jimgrim!" said Abdul Ali. "Jimgrim? Are you Major James Grim?
A good thing for you I did not know that, when I had you in my
power in the castle!"
Grim laughed. "Are we all set? Let's go."
We hurried all the faster now because our legs were wet. The
night air on those Moab heights is chilly at any season.
Perhaps, too, we were trying to leave behind us the moat-stench
that the water had merely reduced, not washed away. A quarter of
a mile before we reached the place appointed we knew that Anazeh
had not failed to keep his tryst. Away up above us, beside the
tomb, like an ancient bearded ghost, Anazeh stood motionless,
silent, conning the track we should come by--a grand old savage
keeping faith against his neighbours for the sake of friendship.
He did not challenge when he heard us. He took aim. He held his
aim until Grim called to him. When our goat track joined the
main road he was there awaiting us, standing like a sentinel in
the shadow of a fanged rock. And there, if, Abdul Ali of
Damascus could have had his way, there would have been a fresh
debate. He did not let ten seconds pass before he had offered
Anazeh all the money he had with him to lend him a horse and let
him go. Anazeh waived aside the offer.
"You shall have as much more money as you wish!" the Damascene
insisted. "Let me get to my house, and a messenger shall take
the money to you. Or come and get it."
All the answer Anazeh gave him was a curt laugh--one bark like
"Where are all the horses?" Grim demanded. I could only see five
"I wait for them."
"Man, we can't wait!"
"Jimgrim!" said the old sheikh, with a glint of something between
malice and amusement in his eyes, "I knew you in the mejlis when
you watched me read that letter! One word from me and--" He
made a click between his teeth suggestive of swift death. "I let
you play your game. But now I play my game, Allah willing. I
have waited for you. Wait thou for me!"
"Why? What is it?"
Anazeh beckoned us and turned away. We followed him, Grim and I,
across the road and up a steep track to the tomb on the
overhanging rock, where he had stood when we first saw him.
He pointed. A cherry-red fire with golden sparks and crimson-
bellied sulphur smoke was blazing in the midst of El-Kerak.
"The home of Abdul Ali of Damascus," said Anazeh with pride in
his voice. It was the pride of a man who shows off the behaviour
of his children. "My men did it!"
"How can they escape?" Grim asked him.
"Wallah! Will the gate guards stand idle? Will they not run to
the fire--and to the looting? But they will find not much loot.
My men already have it!"
"Loot," said Grim, "will delay them."
"Money doesn't weigh much," Anazeh answered. "Here my men come."
Somebody was coming. There came a burst of shooting and yelling
from somewhere between us and El-Kerak, and a moment later the
thunder of horses galloping full-pelt. Anazeh got down to the
road with the agility of a youngster, ordered Abdul Ali of
Damascus, the shivering Ahmed and me under cover. He placed his
remaining handful of men at points of vantage where they could
cover the retreat of the fifteen. And it was well he did.
There were at least two score in hot pursuit, and though you
could hardly tell which was which in that dim light, Anazeh's
party opened fire on the pursuers and let the fifteen through. I
did not get sight of Grim while that excitement lasted, but he
had two automatics. He took from me the one that I had taken
from Abdul Ali, and with that one and his own he made a din
like a machine-gun. He told me afterward that he had fired in
"Noise is as good as knock-outs in the dark," he explained, while
Anazeh's men boasted to one another of the straight shooting that
it may be they really believed they had done. An Arab can
believe anything--afterward. I don't believe one man was killed,
though several were hit.
At any rate, whether the noise accomplished it or not, the
pursuers drew off, and we went forward, carrying a cashbox now,
of which Abdul Ali was politely requested to produce the key.
That was the first intimation he had that his house had been
looted. He threw his bunch of keys away into the shadows, in the
first exhibition of real weakness he had shown that night. It
was a silly gesture. It only angered his captors. It saved him
Four more of Anazeh's men had been wounded, all from behind, two
of them rather badly, making six in all who were now unfit for
further action. But we did not wait to bandage them. They
affected to make light of their injuries, saying they would go
over to the British and get attended to in hospital. Abdul Ali
was put on Ahmed's miserable mount, with his legs lashed under
the horse's belly. Ahmed, with Mahommed ben Hamza and his men
were sent along ahead; being unarmed, unmounted, they were a
liability now. But those Hebron thieves could talk like an
army; they put up a prodigious bleat, all night long, about
that cash-box. They maintained they had a clear right to share
its contents, since unless they had first captured Abdul Ali,
Anazeh's men could not have burned his house and seized
his money. Anazeh's men, when they had time to be, were
It was not a peaceful retreat by any means. Time and again
before morning we were fired on from the rear. Our party
deployed to right and left to answer--always boasting afterward
of having killed at least a dozen men. I added up their figures
on the fly-leaf of the pocket Bible, and the total came to two
hundred and eighteen of the enemy shot dead and forever damned!
I believe Anazeh actually did kill one of our pursuers.
By the time the moon disappeared we had come too close to
Anazeh's country to make pursuit particularly safe. Who they
were who pursued us, hauled off. We reached the launch, secure
in its cove between the rocks, a few minutes after dawn. Anazeh
ordered his six wounded men into it, with perfect assurance
that the British doctors would take care of them and let them
When Grim had finished talking with Anazeh I went up to thank the
old fellow for my escort, and he acknowledged the courtesy with a
bow that would have graced the court of Solomon.
"Give the old bird a present, if you've got one," Grim whispered.
So I gave him my watch and chain, and he accepted them with the
same calm dignity.
"Now he's your friend for life!" said Grim. "Anazeh is a friend
worth having. Let's go!"
The watch and chain was a cheap enough price to pay for that two
days' entertainment and the acquaintance of such a splendid old
king of thieves. Anazeh watched us away until we were out of
earshot, he and Grim exchanging the interminable Arab farewell
formula of blessing and reply that have been in use unchanged for
a thousand years.
Then Abdul Ali produced his wallet again.
"Major Grim," he said, "please take this money. Keep it for
yourself, and let me go. Surely I have been punished enough!
Besides, you cannot--you dare not imprison me! I am a French
subject. I have been seized outside the British sphere. I know
you are a poor man--the pay of a British officer is a matter of
common knowledge. Come now, you have done what you came to do.
You have destroyed my influence at El-Kerak. Now benefit
yourself. Avoid an international complication. Show mercy on
me! Take this money. Say that I gave you the slip in the dark!"
Grim smiled. He looked extremely comical without any eyebrows.
The wrinkles went all the way up to the roots of his hair.
"I'm incorruptible," he said. "The boss, I believe, isn't."
"You mean your High Commissioner? I have not enough money
Grim laughed. "No," he said, "he comes expensive."
"Don't be an ass," said Grim. "You know what."
"You were sent by the French," said Grim, "to raise the devil
here in Palestine--no matter why. You were trying to bring
off a raid on Judaea. Who are your friends in Jerusalem who
were ready to spring surprises? What surprises? Who's your
"If I tell you?"
"I'm not the boss. But I'll see him about it. Come on--who's
Grim whistled. That he did not believe, I was almost certain,
but he whistled as if totally new trains of thought had suddenly
revealed themselves amid a maze of memories.
"You shall speak to the boss," he said after a while.
I fell asleep then, wedged uncomfortably between two men's legs,
wakened at intervals by the noisy pleading of Mahommed ben Hamza
and his men for what they called their rights in the matter of
Abdul Ali's wallet. They were still arguing the point when we
ran on the beach near Jericho, where a patrol of incredulous
Sikhs pounced on us and wanted to arrest Ahmed and Anazeh's
wounded men. Grim had an awful time convincing them that he was
a British officer. In the end we only settled it by tramping
about four miles to a guard-house, where a captain in uniform
gave us breakfast and telephoned for a commisariat lorry.
It was late in the afternoon when we reached Jerusalem and got
the wounded into hospital. By the time Grim had changed into
uniform and put courtplaster where his eyebrows should have been,
and he, Abdul Ali and I had driven in an official Ford up the
Mount of Olives to OETA, the sun was not far over the skyline.
Grim had telephoned, so the Administrator was waiting for us.
Grim went straight in. It was twenty minutes before we two were
summoned into his private room, where he sat behind the desk
exactly as we had left him the other morning. He looked as if he
had not moved meanwhile. Everything was exactly in its place--
even the vase, covering the white spot on the varnish. There was
the same arrangement of too many flowers, in a vase too small to
"Allow me to present Sheikh Abdul Ali of Damascus," said Grim.
The Administrator bowed rather elaborately, perhaps to hide
the twinkle in his eyes. He didn't scowl. He didn't look
tyrannical. So Abdul Ali opened on him, with all bow guns.
"I protest! I am a French subject. I have been submitted to
violence, outrage, indignity! I have been seized on foreign
soil, and brought here by force against all international
law! I shall claim exemplary damages! I demand apology
Sir Louis raised his eyebrows and looked straight at Grim without
even cracking a smile.
"Is this true, Major Grim?"
"Afraid it is, sir."
"Scandalous! Perfectly scandalous! And were you a witness to
all this?" he asked, looking at me as if I might well be the
cause of it all.
I admitted having seen the greater part of it.
"And you didn't protest? What's the world coming to? I see
you've lost a little skin yourself. I hope you've not been
breaking bounds and fighting?"
"He is a most impertinent man!" said Abdul Ali, trying to take
his cue, and glowering at me. "He posed as a person interested
in a school for El-Kerak, and afterward helped capture me by
The Administrator frowned. It seemed I was going to be made the
scape-goat. I did not care. I would not have taken a year of
Sir Louis' pay for those two days and nights. When he spoke
again I expected something drastic addressed to me, but I
"An official apology is due to you, Sheikh Abdul Ali. Permit me
to offer it, together with my profound regret for any slight
personal inconvenience to which you may have been subjected in
course of this--ah--entirely unauthorized piece of--ah--
brigandage. I notice you have been bruised, too. You shall have
the best medical attention at our disposal."
"That is not enough!" sneered Abdul Ali, throwing quite
"I know it isn't. I was coming to that. An apology is also due
to the French--our friends the French. I shall put it in
writing, and ask you to convey it to Beirut to the French High
Commissioner, with my compliments. I would send you by train,
but you might be--ah--delayed at Damascus in that case. Perhaps
Emir Feisal might detain you. There will be a boat going from
Jaffa in two days' time. Two days will give you a chance to
recover from the outrageous experience before we escort you to
the coast. A first-class passage will be reserved for you by
wire, and you will be put on board with every possible courtesy.
You might ask the French High Commissioner to let me know if
there is anything further he would like us to do about it. Now,
I'll ring for a clerk to take you to the medical officer--under
escort, so that you mayn't be subjected to further outrage or
indignity. Good evening!"
"Anything more for me?" asked Grim, as soon as Abdul Ali had been
"Not tonight, Grim. Come and see me in the morning." Grim
saluted. The Administrator looked at me--smiled mischievously.
"Have a good time?" he asked. "Don't neglect those scratches.
No more. Not another word. He never did say another word to me
about it, although I met him afterwards a score of times. You
couldn't help but admire and like him.
Grim led the way up the tower stairs again, and we took a last
look at El-Kerak. The moon was beginning to rise above the rim
of the Moab Hills. The land beyond the Dead Sea was wrapped in
utter silence. Over to the south-east you could make out one dot
of yellow light, to prove that men lived and moved and had their
being in that stillness. Otherwise, you couldn't believe it was
real country. It looked like a vision of the home of dreams.
"Got anything to do tonight?" asked Grim. "Can you stay awake?
I know where some Jews are going to play Beethoven in an upper
room in the ancient city. Care to come?"
"And the rest of the acts of Ahaziah--"
I have no idea what Grim did during the next few days. I spent
the time studying Arabic, and saw nothing of him until he walked
into my room at the hotel one afternoon, sat down and came
straight to the point.
"Got the hang of it?"
"Yes, I think so," I answered. "Allah's peace, as they call it,
depends on the French. They intend to get Damascus and all
Syria. So they sent down Abdul Ali of Damascus to make trouble
for the British in Palestine; the idea being to force the
British to make common cause with them. That would mean total
defeat for the Arabs; and Great Britain would save France scads
of men and money. But you pulled that plug. I saw you do it. I
heard Abdul Ali of Damascus tell you Scharnhoff's name. Did you
go after Scharnhoff?"
"No, not yet," he answered. "You're no diplomat."
I knew that. I have never wished to be one, never having met a
professional one who did not, so to speak, play poker with a cold
deck and at least five aces. The more frankly they seem to be
telling the truth, the more sure you may be they are lying.
"Neither are you," I answered. "You're a sportsman. Are you
allowing Scharnhoff weight for age, and a fair start--or what?"
He chuckled. "You believed old Abdul-Ali of Damascus? He's a
French secret political agent. So whatever he told us is
certainly not true. Or, if it is true, or partially true, then
it's the kind of truth that is deadlier deceptive than a good
clean God-damned lie. Get this: such men as Abdul Ali would
face torture rather than betray an associate--unless they're sure
the associate is a traitor or about to become one. A government
can't easily punish its own spies on foreign territory. But by
betraying them, it can sometimes get the other government to do
it. That Abdul Ali betrayed Scharnhoff to me, proves one of two
things. Abdul Ali was lying, and Scharnhoff harmless--or in
some way Scharnhoff has fallen foul of his French paymasters
and they want him punished. Very likely he has drawn French
money, for their purposes, and has misused it for his own ends.
Or perhaps they have promised him money, and wish to back down.
Possibly he knows too much about their agents, and they want
him silenced. They propose to have us silence him. I'm going
to call on Scharnhoff."
"You suspect him of double treachery?"
"I suspect him of being a one-track-minded, damned old
I had met Hugo Scharnhoff. Long before the War he had been a
professor of orientology at Vienna University. At the moment he
was technically an "enemy alien." But he had lived so many years
in Jerusalem, and was reputed so studious and harmless, that the
British let him stay there after Allenby captured the city. A
man of moderate private means, he owned a stone house in the
German Colony with its back to the Valley of Hinnom.
"Care to come?" Grim asked me.
"Know your Bible?" He proceeded to quote from it: "And the rest
of the acts of Ahaziah which he did are they not written in the
book of the chronicles of the Kings of Israel?"'
"What of it?"
"That was set down in Aramaic, nowadays called Hebrew, something
like three thousand years ago," said Grim. "It's Aramaic magic.
Let's take a look at it."
We trudged together down the dusty Bethlehem Road, turned to the
east just short of the Pool of the Sultan (where they now had a
delousing station for British soldiers) and went nearly to the
end of the colony of neat stone villas that the Germans built
before the War, and called Rephaim. It was a prosperous colony
until the Kaiser, putting two and two, made five of them and had
to guess again.
The house we sought stood back from the narrow road, at a corner,
surrounded by a low stone wall and a mass of rather dense shrubs
that obscured the view from the windows. The front door was a
thing of solid olive-wood. We had to hammer on it for several
minutes. There was no bell.
A woman opened it at last--an Arab in native costume, gazelle-
eyed, as they all are, and quite good looking, although hardly in
her first youth. Her face struck me as haunted. She was either
ashamed when her eyes met Grim's or else afraid of him. But she
smiled pleasantly enough and without asking our business led the
way at once to a room at the other end of a long hall that was
crowded with all sorts of curios. They were mostly stone bric-a-
brac-fragments of Moabite pottery and that kind of thing, with a
pretty liberal covering of ordinary house dust. In fact, the
house had the depressing "feel" of a rarely visited museum.
The room she showed us into was the library--three walls lined
with books, mostly with German titles--a big cupboard in one
corner, reaching from floor to ceiling--a big desk by the
window--three armchairs and a stool. There were no pictures,
and the only thing that smacked of ornament was the Persian rug
on the floor.
We waited five minutes before Scharnhoff came in, looking as if
we had disturbed his nap. He was an untidy stout man with green
goggles and a grayish beard, probably not yet sixty years of age,
and well preserved. He kept his pants up with a belt, and his
shirt bulged untidily over the top. When he sat down you could
see the ends of thick combinations stuffed into his socks. He
gave you the impression of not fitting into western clothes at
all and of being out of sympathy with most of what they represent.
He was cordial enough--after one swift glance around the room.
"Brought a new acquaintance for you," said Grim, introducing
me. "I've told him how all the subalterns come to you for
"Ach! The young Lotharios! Each man a Don Juan! All they come
to me for is tales of Turkish harems, of which I know no more
than any one. They are not interested in subjects of real
importance. 'How many wives had Djemal Pasha? How many of them
were European?' That is what they ask me. When I discuss
ancient history it is only about King Solomon's harem that they
care to know; or possibly about the modern dancing girls of El-
Kerak, who are all spies. But there is no need to inform you as
to that. Eh? I haven't seen you for a long time, Major Grim.
What have you been doing?"
"Nothing much. I was at the Tomb of the Kings yesterday."
Scharnhoff smiled scornfully.
"Now you must have some whiskey to take the taste of that untruth
out of your mouth! How can a man of your attainments call that
obviously modern fraud by such a name? The place is not nearly
two thousand years old! It is probably the tomb of a Syrian
queen named Adiabene and her family. Josephus mentions it. This
land is full--every square metre of it--of false antiquities with
real names, and real antiquities that never have been discovered!
But why should a man like you, Major Grim, lend yourself to
He walked over to the cupboard to get whiskey, and from where we
sat we could both of us see what he was doing. The cupboard was
in two parts, top and bottom, without any intervening strip of
wood between the doors, which fitted tightly. When he opened the
top part the lower door opened with it. He kicked it shut again
at once, but I had seen inside--not that it was interesting at
He set whiskey and tumblers on the desk, poured liberally, and
went on talking.
"Tomb of the Kings? Hah! Tomb of the Kings of Judah? Hah! If
any one can find that, he will have something more important than
Ludendorff's memoirs! Something merkwurdig, believe me!"
He stiffened suddenly, and looked at Grim through the green
goggles as if he were judging an antiquity.
"Perhaps this is not the time to make you a little suggestion, eh?"
Grim's face wrinkled into smiles.
"This man knows enough to hang me anyhow! Fire away!"
"Ah! But I would not like him to hang me!"
"He's as close as a clam. What's your notion?"
"Nothing serious, but--between us three, then--you and I are both
foreigners in this place, Major Grim, although I have made it my
home for fifteen years. You have no more interest in this
government and its ridiculous rules than I have. What do you
say--shall we find the Tomb of the Kings together?"
Grim wrinkled into smiles again and glanced down at his uniform.
"Yes, exactly!" agreed Scharnhoff. "That is the whole point.
They call me an enemy alien. I am to all intents and purposes a
prisoner. You are a British officer--can do what you like--go
where you like. You wear red tabs; you are on the staff;
nobody will dare to question you. These English have stopped all
exploration until they get their mandate. After that they will
take good care that only English societies have the exploration
privilege. But what if we--you and I, that is to say--between
us extract the best plum from the pudding before those miscalled
statesmen sign the mandate--eh? It can be done! It can be done!"
"I suppose you already see a picture of you and me with an
ancient tomb in our trunks--say a few tons of the more artistic
parts--beating it for the frontier and hawking the stuff
afterward to second-hand furniture dealers? Pour me another
whiskey, prof, and then we'll go steal the Mosque of Omar!"
"Ach! You laugh at me--you jest--you mock--you sneer. But I
know what I propose. Do you know what will be found in that Tomb
of the Kings of Judah when we discover it?"
"Bones. Dry bones. A few gold ornaments perhaps. A stale
"The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel! Think of it!
A parchment roll--perhaps two or three rolls--not too big to go
into a valise--worth more than all the other ancient manuscripts
in the world all put together! Himmel! What a find that would
be! What a record! What a refutation of all the historians and
the fools who set themselves up for authorities nowadays! What a
price it would bring! What would your Metropolitan Museum in New
York not pay for it! What would the Jews not pay for it! They
would raise millions among them and pay any price we cared
to ask! The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel--
"But why the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel in the tomb of the
Kings of Judah?" Grim asked, more by way of keeping up the
conversation, I think, than because he could not guess the
answer. He is an omnivorous reader, and there is not much
recorded of the Near East that he does not know.
"Don't you know your history? You know, of course, that after
King Solomon died the Jews divided into two kingdoms. The
latter-day Jews speak of themselves as Israelites, but they are
nothing of the kind; they are Judah-ites. The tribe of Judah
remained in Jerusalem, forming one small kingdom; their
descendants are the Jews of today. Part of the tribe of Benjamin
stayed with them. The other seceding ten tribes called
themselves the kingdom of Israel."
"Everybody knows that," said Grim. "What of it?"
"Well, the Assyrians came down and conquered the kingdom of
Israel--marched all the Israelites away into captivity--and they
vanished out of history. From that day to this their Book of
Chronicles, so often referred to in the Old Testament, has never
been seen nor heard of."
"Of course not," said Grim. "The King of Assyria used it to wipe
his razor on when he was through shaving every morning."
"Ach! You joke again; but I tell you I am not joking. Such
people as those Hebrews are naturally secretive and so proud that
they wrote down for posterity all the doings of their puny kings,
would never have let their records fall into the hands of the
Assyrians. They themselves were marched away in slave-gangs, but
they left their Book behind them, safely hidden. Be sure of it!
Ten years ago I found a manuscript in the place they now call
Nablus, which in those days was Schechem. Schechem was the
capital of the Kingdom of Israel, just as Jerusalem was the
capital of the Kingdom of Judah, or the Jews. I sold that
manuscript for a good price after I had photographed it. The
idiots to whom I sold it--historians they call themselves!--value
it only as a relic of antiquity. I made a digest of it--analyzed
it--studied it--compared it with other authentic facts in my
possession--and came to the definite conclusion that I hold the
clue to the whereabouts of that lost Book of Chronicles."
"Let's see the photograph," Grim suggested.
"It has been impounded with other so-called 'enemy property' by
your friends the British. I suppose they thought the German
General Staff might get hold of it and conquer the Suez Canal!
But what good would the sight of it do? You couldn't understand
a word of it. It convinced me, after months of study, that when
the Ten Tribes were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians
they sent their records secretly to Jerusalem. Ever since the
secession the Israelites and Jews had been jealous enemies. But
they were relatives after all, boasting a common ancestor, proud
of the same history, more or less observing the same religion.
And Schechem was only about thirty miles from Jerusalem, which
was considered an impregnable fortress until the Babylonians took
it later on. So they sent their records to Jerusalem, and the
Jews hid them. Where? Where do you suppose?"
"The likeliest place would be Solomon's Temple."
"You think so? Then you think superficially, my young friend.
Let us return to that Tomb of the Kings again for a moment. That
place that you visited is such an obvious fake that even the
guide-books make light of it. The one all-important thing in
Palestine that never yet has been discovered is the real Tomb of
the Kings. Yet Jerusalem, where it certainly must be, has been
searched and looted a hundred times from end to end. Therefore--
you follow me?--the Jews must have concealed it very cunningly.
Answer me, then: would the Jews, who were always a practical
people and not corpse-worshippers like the Egyptians, have taken
all that trouble to hide the tomb of their kings unless there
were important treasure in it? Answer me!"
"So you expect to find treasure in addition to the lost Book of
"Certainly I do! The treasure will make the whole proceeding
safe. Let the British have it! The fools will be so blinded by
the glamour of gold, that I shall easily extract the things of
real value--the invaluable manuscripts! Then let the men who
call themselves historians take a back seat!"
He rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
"Were you looking for the Tomb of the Kings, then, before the
War?" Grim asked him.
"Not exactly. Under the Turks it was difficult. The Turks were
beautifully corrupt. By paying for it I could get permission to
excavate on any property owned by Christians. But the minute I
touched Moslem places the Turks became fanatical. The Arabs,
now, are different--fanatics, too, but with a new sort of
fanaticism--new to them, I mean--the kind that made the French
revolutionists destroy everything their ancestors had set value
on. There are plenty of Arabs so full of this disease of
Bolshevism that they would make it easy for me to desecrate what
others believe is holy ground. But these idiots of English are
worse than the Turks! They have stopped all excavation. They
are so afraid of Bolshevism that, if they could, they would
imitate Joshua and make the sun stand still!"
"Well, what's the idea?" asked Grim, finishing his whiskey.
Scharnhoff shrugged his shoulders.
"You know my position. I am helpless--here on suffrance--obliged
by idiotic regulations to sit in idleness. But if I could find a
British officer with brains--surely there must be one somewhere!
--one with some authority, who is considered above suspicion, I
could show him, perhaps, how to get rich without committing any
crime he need feel ashamed of."
I could not see Grim's eyes from where I sat, and he did not make
any nervous movement that could have given him away. Yet I was
conscious of a new alertness, and I think Scharnhoff detected it,
too, for he changed his tactics on the instant.
"Hah! Hah! I was joking! Nobody who is fool enough to be a
professional soldier would be clever enough to find the Tomb of
the Kings and keep the secret for ten minutes! Hah! Hah! But I
have a favour I would like to beg of you, Major Grim."
"I've no particular authority, you know."
"Ach! The Administrator listens to you; I am assured of that."
"He listens sometimes, yes, then usually does the other thing.
Well, what's the request?"
"A simple one. There is a risk--not much, but just a little risk
that some fool might stumble on that secret of the Tomb of the
Kings and get away with the treasure. Now, did you ever set a
thief to catch a thief? Hah! Hah! I would be a better watch-dog
than any you could find. I know Jerusalem from end to end. I
know all the likely places. Why don't you get permission for me
to wander about Jerusalem undisturbed and keep my eye open for
tomb-robbers? If I am not to have the privilege of discovering
that Book of Chronicles, at least I would like to see that no
common plunderer gets it. Surely I am known by now to be
harmless! Surely they don't suspect me any longer of being an
agent of the Kaiser, or any such nonsense as that! Why not make
use of me? Get me a permit, please, Major Grim, to go where I
please by day or night without interference. Tomb-robbers
usually work at night, you know."
"All right," said Grim. "I'll try to do that."
"Ah! I always knew you were a man of good sense! Have more
whiskey? A cigar then?"
"Can't promise anything, of course," said Grim, "but you shall
have an answer within twenty-four hours."
Outside, as we turned our faces toward Jerusalem's gray wall,
Grim opened up a little and gave me a suggestion of something in
"Did you see what he has in that cupboard?"
"Yes. Two Arab costumes. Two short crow-bars."
"Did you notice the grayish dust on the rug--three or four
footprints at the corner near the cupboard?"
"Can't say I did."
"No. You wouldn't be looking for it. These men who pose as
intellectuals never believe that any one else has brains. They
fool themselves. There's one thing no man can afford to do, East
of the sun or West of the moon. You can steal, slay, intrigue,
burn--break all the Ten Commandments except one, and have a
chance to get away with it. There's just one thing you can't do,
and succeed. He's done it!"
"And the thing is?"
"Cheat a woman!"
"You mean his house keeper? She who answered the door?"
"You know you'll get scuppered if you're found out!"
Two days passed again without my seeing Grim, although I called
on him repeatedly at the "Junior Staff Officers' Mess" below the
Zionist Hospital. Suliman, the eight-year-old imp of Arab
mischief, who did duty as page-boy met me on each occasion at the
door and took grinning delight in disappointing me.
He was about three and a half feet high--coal-black, with a
tarboosh worn at an angle on his kinky hair and a flashing white
grin across his snub-nosed face that would have made an archangel
count the change out of two piastres twice. Suliman and cool
cheek were as obvious team-mates as the Gemini, and I was one of
a good number, that included every single member of that
unofficial mess, who could never quite see what Grim found so
admirable in him. Grim never explained.
Taking the cue from his master, neither did Suliman ever
explain anything to any one but Grim, who seemed to understand
"Jimgrim not here. No, not coming back. Much business.
Somehow you couldn't suspect that kid of telling the truth.
However, there was nothing for it but to go away, with a
conviction in the small of your back that he was grinning
mischievously after you.
Grim had found him one day starving and lousy in the archway of
the Jaffa Gate, warming his fingers at a guttering candle-end
preparatory to making a meal off the wax. He took him home and
made Martha, the old Russian maid-of-all-work, clean him with
kerosene and soft soap--gave him a big packing-case to sleep
in along with Julius Caesar the near-bull-dog mascot--and
thereafter broke him in and taught him things seldom included
in a school curriculum.
In the result, Suliman adored Grim with all the concentrated zeal
of hero-worship of which almost any small boy is capable; but
under the shadow of Grim's protection he feared not even "brass-
hats" nor regarded civilians, although he was dreadfully afraid
of devils. The devil-fear was a relic of his negroid ancestry.
Some Arab Sheikh probably captured his great-grandmother on a
slave-raid. Superstition lingers in dark veins longer than any
other human failing.
I think I called five times before he confessed at last
reluctantly that Grim was in. That was in the morning after
breakfast, and I was shown into the room with the fireplace and
the deep armchairs. Grim was reading but seemed to me more than
usually reserved, as if the book had been no more than a screen
to think behind, that left him in a manner unprotected when he
laid it down. I talked at random, and he hardly seemed to
"Say," he said, suddenly interrupting me, "you came out of that
El-Kerak affair pretty creditably. Suppose I let you see
something else from the inside. Will you promise not to shout it
all over Jerusalem?"
"Use your own judgment," I answered.
"You mustn't ask questions."
"If any one in the Administration pounces on you in the course of
it, you'll have to drop out and know nothing."
"It may prove a bit more risky than the El-Kerak business."
"Couldn't be," I answered.
"You can't talk enough Arabic to get away with. But could you
act deaf and dumb?"
"Sure--in three languages."
"You understand--I've no authority to let you in on this. I
might catch hell if I were found out doing it. But I need help,
of a certain sort. I want a man who isn't likely to be spotted
by the gang I'm after. Get behind that screen--quick!"
It was a screen that hid a door leading to the pantry and the
servants' quarters. There was a Windsor chair behind it, and it
is much easier to keep absolutely still when you are fairly
comfortable. I had hardly sat down when a man wearing spurs,
who trod heavily, entered the room and I heard Grim get up to
"Are we alone?" a voice asked gruffly.
Instead of answering Grim came and looked behind the screen,
opened the door leading to the pantry, closed it again, locked
it, and without as much as a glance at me returned to face
"Well, general, what is it?"
"This is strictly secret."
"I'll bet it isn't," said Grim. "If it's about missing
explosives I know more than you do."
"My God! It's out? Two tons of TNT intended for the air force
gone without a trace? The story's out?"
"I know it. Catesby sent me word by messenger last night from
Ludd, after you put him under arrest."
"Damn the man! Well, that's what's happened. Catesby's fault.
They'll blame me. The truck containing the stuff was run into a
siding three days ago. Through young Catesby's negligence it was
left there without a guard. Catesby will be broke for that as
sure as my name is Jenkins. But, by the knell of hell's bells,
Grim, more than Catesby will lose their jobs unless we find the
stuff! Two tons. Half enough to blow up Palestine!"
"Too bad about Catesby," said Grim.
"Never mind, Catesby. Damn him! Consider my predicament! How
can I go to the Administrator with a lame-duck story about
missing TNT and nothing done about it?"
"Nothing done? You've passed the buck, haven't you? Catesby is
under arrest, you say."
"What do you mean?"
"I know Catesby," Grim retorted quietly. "He made that fine
stand at Beersheba--when the Arabs rushed the camp, and you
weren't looking. He took the blame for your carelessness, and
never squealed. You took the credit for his presence of mind,
and have treated him like a dog ever since. You expect me to try
to save your bacon and forget Catesby's?"
"Nonsense, Grim! You're talking without your book. Here's what
happened: the stuff arrived at Ludd in a truck attached to the
end of a mixed train. The R.T.O.* sent me a memorandum and
stalled the truck on a siding. I gave the memorandum to
Catesby." [*Railway Traffic Officer.]
"He tells me in the note I received last night that you did
nothing of the kind."
"Then he's a liar. He forgot all about it and did nothing. When
the Air Force sent to get the stuff the truck was empty."
"And you want me to find it, I suppose?"
"Yes. The quicker the better!"
"And be a party to breaking Catesby? I like my job, but not
"You refuse then to hunt for the TNT?"
"I take my orders straight from the Administrator. He expects me
in half an hour. You want me to smooth the way for you with Sir
Louis. I'm much more interested in Catesby, who would face a
firing party sooner than soak another fellow for his own fault.
Catesby assures me in writing that the first he ever heard of
that TNT was when you ordered him arrested after discovery of the
loss. His word goes, as far as I'm concerned. If you want me to
help you, find another goat than Catesby. That's my answer."
There followed quite a long pause. Perhaps Brigadier-General
Jenkins was wondering what chance he would stand in a show-down.
Whoever had heard the mess and canteen gossip knew that Jenkins'
career had been one long string of miracles by which he had
attained promotion without in any way deserving it, and a
parallel series of even greater ones by which he had saved
himself from ruin by contriving to blame some one else.
"You want me to white-wash Catesby?" he said at last. "If you
pounce quickly on the TNT, no one need know it was lost."
"If you court-martial Catesby, the public shall know who lost it,
and who didn't, even if it costs me my commission!"
"Blast you! Insubordination!"
"Is your car outside?" Grim answered. "Why don't you drive me up
to the Administrator and charge me with it?"
"Don't be an idiot! I came to you to avoid a scandal. If this
news gets out there'll be a panic. Things are touchy enough as
"Well--if I drop the charge against Catesby--?"
"Then I shall not have to fight for him."
"I'll see what I can do."
"Damn and blast you! All right, I'll clear Catesby."
In that ominous minute, like the devil in an old-time drama,
Suliman knocked at the door leading from the outer hall. Grim
opened it, and I heard the boy's voice piping up in Arabic. The
Administrator was in his car outside, waiting to know whether
Major Grim was indoors.
"Where's your car?" I heard Grim ask.
"I sent the man to get a tire changed," Jenkins answered.
"Then Sir Louis needn't know you're here. Do you want to
"Of course not."
"You can get behind that screen if you like."
I thought Jenkins would explode when he found me sitting there.
He was a big, florid-faced man with a black moustache waxed into
points, and a neck the color of rare roast beef--a man not given
to self-restraint in any shape or form. But he had to make a
quick decision. Sir Louis' footsteps were approaching. He
glared at me, made a sign to me to sit still, twisted his
moustache savagely, and listened, breathing through his mouth to
avoid the tell-tale whistle of his hairy nostrils. I heard Grim
start toward the hall, but Sir Louis turned him back and came
"It occurred to me I'd save you the time of coming up to see me
this morning, Grim, and look in on you instead before I start my
rounds. Any new developments?"
"Not yet, sir. I'll need forty-eight hours. If we move too
fast they may touch the stuff off before we get the whole gang
in the net."
"You're sure you'd rather not have the police?"
"Quite. They mean well, but they're clumsy."
"Um-m-m! All the same, the thing's ticklish. There are rumours
about all ready. The Grand Mufti* came to me before breakfast
with a wild tale. I've promised him some Sikhs for special
sentry duty. He'd hardly gone before some Zionists came with a
story that the Arabs are planning to blow up their hospital; I
gave them ten men and an officer." [*The religious head of the
"Is the city quiet?" Grim asked him.
"Fair to middling. The Jews refused to take their shutters down
this morning. I had to issue an order about it. I hear now that
they're doing business about as usual, but I've ordered the
number of men on duty within the city walls to be doubled. At
the first sign of disturbance I shall have the gates closed. Are
you quite sure you're in touch?"
"Quite. sure, sir. I'm positive of what I told you last night.
Will you be seeing Colonel Goodenough?"
"Yes, in ten minutes."
"Please ask him to hold his Sikhs at my disposal for the next two
days. You might add, sir, that if he cares to see sport he could
do worse than lend his own services."
"I'll do that. You can count on Goodenough. That's a soldier
devoid of nonsense. Anything else?"
"Keep me informed. Remember, Grim, I'm responsible for all you
do. I've endorsed you in blank, as it were. Don't overlook
"I won't, sir."
Sir Louis walked out. Almost before his spurs ceased jingling in
the tiled hall, Brigadier-General Jenkins strode out in a
towering rage from behind the screen.
"'Pon my soul, a spy's trick!" he exploded. "Had an
eavesdropper, did you? Listening from behind a screen while you
tricked me into a promise on Catesby's account!"
"Sure," Grim answered, folding the screen back, and letting
his face wrinkle in smiles all the way up to the roots of
his hair. Very comical he looked, for his eyebrows were
only partly sprouted again. "Had two of you to listen in
on the Administrator!"
"Endorses you in blank, eh? How long would he let the
endorsement stand if he knew I was behind that screen while he
was talking to you?"
"Try him!" Grim suggested. "Shall I call him back? He doesn't
want to break you--told me so, in fact, last night--but he could
change his mind, I daresay. My tip to you is to get back to Ludd
as fast as your car can take you, release Catesby, and say as
little as possible to any one!"
"Damn you for a Yankee!" Jenkins answered. "You've got me
cornered for the moment, and you make the most of it. But wait
till my turn comes! As for you, sir," Jenkins turned and looked
me up and down with all the arrogance that nice new crossed
swords on his shoulder can give a certain sort of man, "don't let
me catch you trying to interfere in any Administration business,
I offered him a cigarette, grinning. There was no sense in
picking a quarrel. No man likes to discover that a perfect
stranger has overheard his intimate confessions. His annoyance
was understandable. But he hadn't nice manners. He knocked the
cigarette case out of my hand and kicked it across the room. So
I got into one of the deep armchairs and laughed at him in self-
defense, to preserve my own temper from boiling up over the top.
"To hell with both of you!" Jenkins thundered, and strode out
like Mars on the war-path.
"Poor old Jinks!" said Grim, as soon as he had gone. "As Sir
Louis said last night, he has a wife and family besides the
unofficial ladies on his string. All they'll have to divide
between them soon, at the rate he's going, will be his half-pay.
He has fought for promotion all his days, to keep abreast of
expenses. What that string of cormorants will do with his four
hundred pounds a year, when he oversteps at last and gets
retired, beggars imagination! However, let's get busy."
Business consisted in dressing me up as an Arab with the aid of
Suliman, and drilling me painstakingly for half-an-hour, both of
them using every trick they knew to make me laugh or show
surprise, and Grim nodding approval each time I contrived not to.
More difficult than acting deaf and dumb was the trick of
squatting with my legs crossed, but I had learned it after a
fashion in India years ago, and only needed schooling.
"You'll get scuppered if you're caught," he warned me. "If
Suliman wasn't so scared of devils I wouldn't risk it, but I must
have somebody to keep an eye on him when the time comes; that'll
be tomorrow, I think."
"Suppose you tell me the object of the game," I suggested. "I'm
sick of only studying the rules."
"Well--your part will be to sit over those two tons of TNT and
see that nobody explodes them ahead of time. There's a
conspiracy on foot to blow up the Dome of the Rock."
"You mean the Mosque of Omar?"
"The place tourists call the Mosque of Omar. The site of
Solomon's Temple--the Rock of Abraham--the threshing-floor of
Araunah the Jebusite. Next after the shrine at Mecca it's the
most sacred spot in the whole Mahommedan world."
"Good lord!" I said. "Are the Zionists so reckless?".
"No, the Arabs are. Remember what old Scharnhoff said the other
day about the new fanaticism?"
"Is Scharnhoff mixed up in it?"
"He's being watched. If the Arabs pull it off, they'll accuse
the Jews of doing it, and set to work to butcher every Jew in the
Near East. That will oblige the British to protect the Jews.
That in turn will set every Mohammedan in the world--'specially
Indians, but Egyptians, too--against the British. Jihad--green
banner--holy war--all the East and Northern Africa alight while
the French snaffle Syria. Sound good to you?"
"Sir Louis knows this?"
"He, is paid to know things."
"And he lets you play cat and mouse with it?"
"Got to be careful. Suppose we draw the net too soon, what then?
Most of the conspirators escape. The story leaks out. The Jews
get the blame for the attempt, and sooner or later the massacre
begins anyhow. What we've got to do is bag every last mother's
son of them, and suppress the whole story--return the TNT to
store, and swear it was never missing."
"The Administrator has his nerve," I said.
"You'll need yours, too, before this game's played," Grim
answered. "D'you see now why I picked on you for an accomplice?"
"I do not."
"You're the one man in Jerusalem whom nobody will suspect, or be
on the look-out for. The men we're up against are the shrewdest
rats in Palestine. They've got a list of British officers, my
name included, of course. They'll know which men are assigned to
special duty, and they'll keep every one of us shadowed."
"Won't that--I mean, how can you work if you're shadowed?"
"Me? I shall catch my spur in the carpet, fall downstairs and
break a leg at ten-fifteen. At ten-thirty the doctor comes, and
finds me too badly hurt to be moved. He sends word of it to Sir
Louis by an orderly who can be trusted to talk to any one he
meets on the way. I leave by the back way at ten forty-five.
However, here's a chance for you to practise deaf-and-dumb drill.
There's some one coming. Squat down in that corner. Look meek
and miserable. That's the stuff. Answer the door, Suliman."
"You may now be unsafe and an outlaw and enjoy yourself!"
The man who entered was a short, middle-aged Jew of the type that
writes political reviews for magazines--black morning coat, straw
hat, gold pince-nez--a neatly trimmed dark beard beginning to
turn gray from intense mental emotion--nearly bald--a manner of
conceding the conventions rather than argue the point, without
admitting any necessity for them--a thin-lipped smile that
apologized for smiling in a world so serious and bitter. He wore
a U.S.A. ten-dollar gold piece on his watch chain, by way of
establishing his nationality.
"Well, Mr. Eisernstein? Trouble again? Sit down and let's hear
the worst," said Grim.
Eisernstein remained standing and glanced at me over in the
"I will wait until you are alone."
"Ignore him--deaf and dumb," Grim answered. "Half a minute,
though--have you had breakfast?"
"Breakfast! This is no time for eating, Mister--I beg your
pardon, Major Grim. I have not slept. I shall not break
my fast until my duty is done. If it is true that the Emperor
Nero fiddled while Rome burned, then I find him no worse than
"Has he threatened to crucify you?" Grim asked. "Take a
"He may crucify me, and I will thank him, if he will only in
return for it pay some attention to the business for which he
draws a salary! I drove to Headquarters to see him. He was not
there. Nobody would tell me where he is. I drove down again
from the Mount of Olives and luckily caught sight of his car in
the distance. I contrived to intercept him. I told him there is
a plot on foot to massacre every individual of my race in the
Near East--a veritable pogrom. He was polite. He seems to think
politeness is the Christian quality that covers the multitude of
sins. He offered me a cigar!
"I offered him a telegram blank, with which to cable for
reenforcements! He said that all rumours in Jerusalem become
exaggerated very quickly, and offered me a guard of one soldier
to follow me about! I insisted on immediate military precautions
on a large scale failing which I will cable the Foreign Office in
London at my own expense. I offered to convince him with
particulars about this contemplated pogrom but he said he had an
urgent appointment and referred me to you, just as Nero might
have referred a question regarding the amphitheatre to one of
"Pogroms mean nothing in his young life," Grim answered smiling.
"I'm here to do the dirty work. Suppose you spill the news."
"You must have heard the news! Yet you ignore it! The Moslems
are saying that we Zionists have offered two million pounds, or
some such ridiculous sum, for the site of Solomon's Temple. They
are spreading the tale broadcast. Their purpose is to stir up
fanaticism against us. The ignorant among them set such value on
that rock and the mosque their cut-throat ancestors erected on it
that Jews are now openly threatened as they pass through the