Part 4 out of 5
streets. Yet there is not one word of truth in the story of our
having made any such offer."
"There are plenty of troops," said Grim. "Any attempt at
violence could be handled instantly."
"Then you will do nothing?"
"What do you suggest ought to be done?"
"Here is a list. Read it. Those are the names of fifty Arabs
who are active in spreading anti-Zionist propaganda."
Grim read the list carefully.
"All talkers," he said. "Not a really dangerous man among them."
"Ah! There you are! I might have expected it!" Eisernstein
threw up his hands in a gesture of contempt rather than despair.
"Nobody cares what happens to Jews. Nobody cares for our
sleepless agony of mind. Nobody cares how or what we suffer
until afterward, when there will be polite expressions of regret,
which the survivors will assess at a true valuation! It is the
same wherever we turn. Last night--at half-past one in the
morning--a committee of us, every one American, Called at the
American consulate to tell our consul of our danger. The consul
was unsympathetic in the last degree. Yet our coreligionists in
the States are taxed to pay his salary. He said it was not
his business. He referred us to the Administrator. The
Administrator refers me to you. To whom do you refer me? To the
devil, I suppose!"
"The best thing you can do," said. Grim, "is to go ahead and deny
that story about the offer to buy the Dome of the Rock. You
Zionists have got the most efficient publicity bureau on earth.
You can reach the public ear any time you want to. Deny the
story, and keep on denying it."
"Ah! Who will believe us? To be a Zionist is to be a person
about whom anybody will believe anything; and the more absurd
the lie, the more readily it will be believed! Meanwhile, the
Moslems are sharpening their swords against us from one end of
this land to the other!"
I suppose that what Eisernstein really needed more than anything
was sympathy, not good advice. Grim's deliberate coolness only
irritated the passion of a man, whose whole genius and energy
were bent on realizing the vision of a nation of Jews firmly
established in their ancient home. A people that has been
tortured in turn by all the governments can hardly be expected to
produce un-nervous politicians. He was at the mercy of emotions,
obsessed by one paramount idea. A little praise just then of his
loyalty to an ideal, to which he had sacrificed time, means,
health, energy, everything, would have soothed him and hurt
nobody. But the acidity of his scorn had bitten beneath the
surface of Grim's good humor.
"There'll be no pogrom," Grim said, getting up and lighting a
cigarette. "There'll be nothing resembling one. But that won't
be the fault of you Zionists. You accuse without rime or reason,
but you yell for help the minute you're accused yourselves. I
don't blame the Arabs for not liking you. Nobody expects Arabs
to enjoy having their home invaded by an organization of
foreigners. Yet if this Administration lifts a finger to make
things easier for the Arabs you howl that it's unfair.
"If the Administrator refuses to arrest Arabs for talking a
little wildly, you call him a Nero. I'm neither pro- nor anti-
Zionist myself. You and the Arabs may play the game out between
you for all of me. But I can promise you there'll be no pogrom.
It is my business to know just what precautions have been taken."
"Words! Major Grim. Words!" sneered Eisernstein, getting up to
go. "What do words amount to, when presently throats are to be
cut? If your throat were in danger, I venture to say there would
be something doing, instead of mere talk about precautions! I
hope you will enjoy your little cigarette," he added bitterly.
"Talk of fiddling while Rome burns!" Grim laughed as soon as the
Zionist had left the room. "Has it ever occurred to you that
Nero was possibly smothering his feelings? I wonder how long
there'd be one Zionist left out here, if we simply stood aside
and looked on. Go and change your clothes, Suliman. It's time I
broke a leg."
Grim disappeared upstairs himself, and returned about ten minutes
later in the uniform of a Shereefian officer--that is to say, of
Emir Feisul's Syrian army. Nothing could be smarter, not
anything better calculated to disguise a man. Disguise, as any
actor or detective can tell you, is not so much a matter of make-
up as suggestion. It is little mannerisms--unstudied habits that
identify. The suggestion that you are some one else is the thing
to strive for, not the concealment of who you really are.
Grim's skin had been sun-tanned in the Arab campaign under
Lawrence against the Turks. The Shereefian helmet is a
compromise between the East and West, having a strip of cloth
hanging down behind it as far as the shoulders and covering the
ears on either side, to take the place of the Arab head-dress.
The khaki uniform had just enough of Oriental touch about it
to distinguish it from that of a British officer. No man
inexperienced in disguise would dream of choosing it; for the
simple reason that it would not seem to him disguise enough. Yet
Grim now looked so exactly like somebody else that it was hard to
believe he was the same man who had been in the room ten minutes
before. His mimicry of the Syrian military walk--blended of
pride and desire not to seem proud--was perfect.
"I'm now staff-captain Ali Mirza of Feisul's army," he announced.
"Ali Mirza a man notorious for his anti-British rancor, but
supposed to be down here just now on a diplomatic mission. I've
been seen about the streets like this for the last two days. But
say: that doctor is a long time on the way."
He went to the telephone, but did not call the hospital; that
would have been too direct and possibly too secret.
"Give me Headquarters--yes--who's that?--never mind who's
speaking--say: I can't get the military hospital--something wrong
with the wire--will you call Major Templeton and say that Major
Grim has had an accident--yes, Grim--compound fracture of the
thigh--very serious--ask him to go at once to Major Grim's
quarters--thanks--that's all." He returned to the fireplace and
stood watching me meditatively for several minutes.
"If you deceive Templeton, you'll do," he said at last. "Wait
He went to the desk and scribbled something in Arabic on a sheet
of paper, sealed that in a blank envelope, and handed it to me.
"Hide it. You've two separate and quite distinct tasks, each
more important and, in a way, dangerous than the other. The
principal danger is to me, not you. If they spot you, my
number's as good as hoisted from that minute. You mustn't kid
yourself you're safe for one second until the last card has
"Who are 'they'?"
"I'm coming to that. Your first job is to make it possible for
me to get the confidence of one or two of these conspirators.
You're a deaf-and-dumb man--stone deaf--with a message for staff-
captain Ali Mirza, which you will only deliver to him in person.
Suliman does the talking. You say nothing. You simply refuse to
hand your message over to any one but me. They'll appreciate why
a deaf and dumb man should be chosen for treasonable business.
But perhaps you're scared--maybe you'd rather reconsider it?
It's not too late."
"All right. These conspirators meet at Djemal's coffee shop on
David Street. They talk to one another in French, because the
proprietor and the other frequenters of the place only know
Arabic. You know French and Arabic enough to understand a
sentence here and there, so keep your ears wide open. I shan't
show up until a Sikh named Narayan Singh tells me that a certain
Noureddin Ali is in there. He's the bird I'm after. He's a
dirty little murderer, and I'm going to be right pleasant to him.
"You may have to sit in the place all day waiting for me; but
wait until after midnight if you must. Sooner or later Noureddin
Ali is bound to show up. I shall be hard after him. If they
offer you food, take it. Eat with your fingers. Eat like a pig.
Lick the plate, if you like. The nearer mad you seem to be, the
safer you are. After I get there, hang around until I give you
money. Then beat it."
"Where to? I can't go to my room at the hotel in this disguise."
"I've thought of that. You know Cosmopolitan Oil Davey, of
course? He lives at the hotel. I'll get word to him that he may
expect a messenger from me after dark tonight. He'll leave word
with the porter downstairs, who'll take you to Davey's room. You
can tell Davey absolutely anything. He's white."
"Well, I think I can execute that maneuver. What's task
"To sit on the TNT! But one thing at a time is enough. Let's
attend to this one first. Ah! Here comes Templeton!"
"Damn you, Grim!" said a calm voice in the doorway. A tall, lean
man in major's uniform with the blue tabs of the medical staff
strode in. He had the dried-out look of the Sudan, added to the
self-reliance that comes of deciding life and death issues at a
"The hospital is crowded with patients, and here you immobilize
me for half a morning. I can't pretend to set a compound
fracture in ten minutes, you know! Why couldn't you break your
neck and have me sign a death certificate?"
"Didn't occur to me," said Grim. "But never mind, doc. You need
a rest. Here's tobacco, lots to read, and an armchair. Lock
yourself in and be happy."
"Who's this?" asked Templeton, looking down at me.
"Deaf and dumb poor devil, earning a few piastres by working for
"Spy, eh? He looks fit for honest work if he had all his
faculties. Is he dumb as well as deaf, or because he's deaf?"
"Dunno," said Grim. "He never speaks."
"Perhaps I can do something for him. Suppose you leave him here
with me. I can give him a thorough examination instead of
wasting my time here."
"He's got a job of work to do right now," said Grim.
"Does he know the sign language? Have you any way of telling him
to come and see me at the hospital?"
"I give him written instructions in Arabic."
"That so? I'll look at his ears--tell you in a minute whether
it's worth while to come to me."
He took my head between strong, authoritative hands and tilted
"Hello! What's this?"
The Arab head-dress I was wearing shifted and showed
"Open that bag of mine, will you, Grim, and pass me that big pair
of forceps you'll find wrapped in oiled paper on top of
everything. There's something I can attend to here at once."
It was an uncomfortable moment. Grim never cracked a smile. He
dug out the instrument of torture and gave it to Templeton. But
there were two points that occurred to me, in addition to the
knowledge that nothing whatever was the matter with my ear.
Doctors in good standing, who are usually gentlemen, don't
operate without permission; and the forceps were much too big
for any such purpose. So I sat still.
"Um-m-m! What he really needs is a red-hot needle run down close
to the ear-drum. It wouldn't take five minutes, or hurt him--
much. After that I think he'd be able to hear perfectly.
Suppose we try."
"I can wait ten minutes yet," Grim answered.
"Very well. I've a platinum needle in the bag. I'll get out the
spirit-lamp and we'll soon see. To be candid with you, I don't
believe the man's any more deaf than you or I."
"If you run a hot needle through the lobe of his ear well
find out whether he can really talk or not," said Grim in
his pleasantest voice. "If he's shamming I don't mind.
What we need in this service is a man who can endure without
"Well, we'll soon see."
I began to hate Grim pretty cordially. I hated him more when
Suliman came in, dressed for the street in a rather dirty cotton
smock, with a turban in place of his fez. He told the boy to
hold the wooden handle of a paper-knife behind my ear to prevent
the hot needle from going too far on its sizzling journey.
It didn't seem to me the way to reciprocate volunteer secret
service. Suliman's grin at the prospect of seeing a man
tortured was enough to provoke murder. I brushed the boy aside,
fly-fashion, got up, crossed the room, and sat down again in
"Good enough!" laughed Grim. "You'll do."
"Yes, I think he'll do," agreed Templeton.
But I took no notice. I had seen too many games lost and won
with the last card. Templeton looked down at Suliman:
"Tell him the game's over. He may talk now."
"Mafish mukhkh!" [No brains!] the boy answered, grinning and
tapping his own forehead. "Magnoon!" [Mad!]
"I think I can trust them both," said Grim, smiling in my
direction. "All right, old man; time out! If you'd spoken once
there'd have been nothing more between you and a life of safety
"Whereas," said Templeton, "you may now be unsafe and an outlaw
and enjoy yourself! Are you sure they haven't marked him?" he
"Sure! Why should they suspect a tourist? But I've taken
precautions. Word is on the way to the hotel to forward all his
mail to Jaffa until further notice." He laughed at me again. "I
hope you're not expecting important letters!"
Suliman had evidently been well schooled in advance, for at a nod
from Grim he came over and took my hand, as if I were blind in
addition to the other supposed infirmities. He led me out by a
back-door, across a yard into an alley, which we followed as far
as a main road and then turned toward the Jaffa Gate. Looking
back once I saw Grim in his Shereefian uniform striding along
behind us; but where the road forked he took the other turning.
There is contentment in walking disguised through crowded
streets, even when you are in tow of eight-year-old iniquity that
regards you as a lump of baggage to be pushed this and that way.
Suliman plainly considered me a rank outsider, only admitted into
the game on sufferance. Having said I was "magnoon" he lived up
to the assertion, and warned people to make way for me if they
did not want to be bitten and go mad, too; so as a general rule
I received a pretty wide berth. But it was fun, in spite of
Suliman. It was like seeing the world through a peep-hole. Men
and women you knew went by without suspecting they were
recognized, and in a puzzling sort of way the world, that had
been your world yesterday, seemed now to belong wholly to other
people, while you lived in a new sphere of your own.
We had to go slowly as we approached the Jaffa Gate, for the
crowd was dense there, and a line of Sikhs was drawn across the
gap where the street passes through the city wall. It was the
gap the Turks once made by tearing down the wall to let the
Kaiser through, when he made that famous meek and humble
pilgrimage of his. The Sikhs were searching all comers for
weapons, and we had to wait our turn.
Outside the gate, on the left-hand as you faced it, was the usual
line of boot-blacks--the only cheap thing left in Jerusalem--a
motley two dozen of ex-Turkish soldiers, recently fighting the
British gamely in the last ditch, and now blacking their boots
with equal gusto, for rather higher pay. Some of them still wore
Turkish uniforms. Two or three were redheaded and blue-eyed, and
almost certainly descended from Scotch crusaders. (The whole
wide world bears witness that when the Scots went soldiering they
were efficient in more ways than one.)
The rest of the crowd were mainly peasantry with basket-loads of
stuff for market; but there was a liberal sprinkling among them
of all the odds and ends of the Levant, with a Jew here and
there, the inevitable Russian priest, and a dozen odd lots,
of as many nationalities, whom it would have been difficult
And there was Police Constable Bedreddin Shah. You could not
have missed noticing him, although I did not learn his name until
afterwards. He came swaggering down the Jaffa Road with all the
bullying arrogance of the newly enlisted Arab policeman. He
shoved me aside, calling me a name that a drunken donkey-driver
would hesitate to apply to a dog in the gutter. He was on his
way to the lock-up that stands just inside the gate, and I wished
him a year in it.
As he plunged into the crowd that checked and surged immediately
in front of the line of Sikhs, a small man in Arab costume with
the lower part of his face well covered by the kaffiyi,* rushed
out from the corner behind the bootblacks and drove a long knife
home to the hilt between the policeman's shoulder-blades. I
wasn't shocked. I wasn't even sorry. [*Head-dress that hangs
down over the shoulders.]
Bedreddin Shah shrieked and fell forward. Blood gushed from the
wound. The crowd surged in curiously, and then fell back before
the advancing Sikhs. A British officer who had heard the
victim's cry came spurring his horse into the crowd from inside
the gate. In his effort to get near the victim he only added to
The murderer, who seemed in no particular hurry, dodged quietly
in and out among the swarm of bewildered peasants, and in thirty
seconds had utterly disappeared. A minute later I saw Grim
offering his services as interpreter and stooping over the dying
man to try to catch the one word he was struggling to repeat.
"Windy bellies without hearts in them."
Djemal's coffee shop is run by a Turkish gentleman whose real
name is Yussuf. One name, and the shorter the better, had been
plenty in the days when Djemal Pasha ran Jerusalem with iron
ruthlessness, and consequent success of a certain sort. When
Djemal was the Turkish Governor, every proprietor of every kind
of shop had to stand in the doorway at attention whenever Djemal
passed, and woe betide the laggard!
It would not have paid any one, in those days, to name any sort
of shop after Djemal Pasha. Even the provider of the rope that
throttled the offender would have made no profit, because the
rope would simply have been looted from the nearest store.
The hangman would have been the nearest soldier, whose pay
was already two years in arrears. So Yussuf's own name done
in Turkish characters used to stand over the door before the
It was Djemal Pasha's considered judgment that Yussuf cooked the
best coffee in Jerusalem. So whenever the despot was in the city
he conferred on Yussuf the inestimable privilege of supplying him
with coffee at odd moments, under threat of the bastinado if the
stuff were not suitably sweet and hot. The only money that ever
changed hands in that connection was when the tax-gatherer came
down on Yussuf for an extra levy, because of the added trade that
conceivably might be expected to accrue through the advertisement
obtained by serving such an exalted customer. The tax-gatherer
also threatened the bastinado; and as the man who likes that
punishment, or who could soften the heart of a Turkish tax
assessor, has yet to be discovered, Yussuf invariably paid.
But when Allenby conquered Palestine between bouts of trying to
tame his Australians, and Djemal Pasha scooted hot-foot into
exile with a two-hundred-woman harem packed in lorries at his
rear, Yussuf remembered that old adage about better late than
never. He put Djemal's name on the stone arch of the narrow door
near the foot of David Street. He did it partly out of the
disrespect that a small dog feels for a big one that is now on
chain; but he was not overlooking the business value of it.
The first result was that he did quite a lot of trade with
British officers, who came primarily because they were sick of
eating sand and bully-beef, and drinking sand and tepid water in
the desert. Later they flocked there by way of paying indirect
homage to a governor who, whatever his obvious demerits, had at
any rate never been answered back or thwarted with impunity.
(There was a time, after the capture of Jerusalem, when if the
British army could have voted on it, Djemal Pasha would have been
brought back and given a free hand.)
But the officers began to discover that Yussuf was charging them
four or five times the proper price. The seniors objected
promptly, and deserted, to the inexpressible delight of the
subalterns; but even the under-paid extravagant youths grew
tired of extortion after a month or two, and Yussuf had to look
elsewhere for customers.
Yussuf did some thinking behind that genial Turkish mask of his.
Competition was keen. There are more coffee shops in Jerusalem
than hairs on a hog's back, and the situation, down near the
bottom of that narrow thoroughfare in the shadow of an ancient
arch, did not lend itself to drawing crowds.
But there were others in Jerusalem besides the British officers
who yearned for Djemal's rule again; and, unlike the irreverent
men in khaki, they did not dare to voice their feelings in
public. All the old political grafters, and all the would-be new
ones savagely resented a regime under which bribery was not
permitted; and, as always happens sooner or later, they began to
show a tendency to meet in certain places, where they might talk
violence without risk of incurring it.
So Yussuf permitted a rumour to gain ground that he, too, was a
malcontent and that the British had deserted his coffee shop for
that reason. He gave out that Djemal Pasha's name over the door
stood for reaction and political intrigue. So his place began to
be frequented by effendis in tarboosh and semi-European clothes,
who could chew the cud of bitterness aloud between walls that the
crusaders had built four feet thick. The only entrance was
through the narrow front door, where Yussuf inspected every
visitor before admitting him.
So Yussuf's "Cafe Djemal Pasha" was the place to go to for
politics, of the red-hot, death-and-dynamite order that would
make Lenin and Trotsky sound like small-town sports. But first
you had to get by Yussuf at the door.
Suliman led me by the hand down David Street, through the smelly-
yelly moil of flies and barter, past the meat and vegetable
stalls, beneath the crusader arches from which Jewish women
peered through trellised windows, across three transversing lanes
of the ancient suku,* and halted at Yussuf's door. [*Bazaar]
He rapped on it three times. When Yussuf's wrinkled face
appeared at last Suliman demanded to see Staff-Captain Ali Mirza.
Yussuf's blood-shot eyes peered at me for a long time before he
asked a question.
"Atrash!--akras!--majnoon!!" [Deaf!--Dumb!--Mad!!] said Suliman.
Describing me as mad seemed to give him particular delight. He never
overlooked a chance of doing it.
"Staff-Captain Ali Mirza is not here. What should a Madman want
"He is not very mad--only stupid. He carries a message for
"But the captain is not here. He has not been here."
"He will come."
"How should a deaf-and-dumb man deliver a message?"
"It is in writing."
"Very well. He may leave the writing with me. If the captain
comes I will deliver it."
"No. The message is from Esh-Sham (Damascus). He will give it
only into the captain's own hand."
"What is your name?"
"What is his?"
"God knows! He came with another man by train; and the other
man, who is much more mad than this one, gave me five piastres to
bring this one to your kahwi!" [Coffe-pot]
Yussuf shut the door, and discussed the proposition with his
customers. At the end of two or three minutes his head
"You say Staff-Captain Ali Mirza is expected here?"
"So said the man at the station."
"What do you know of Staff-Captain Ali Mirza?"
Once more the door closed and I could hear the murmur of
voices inside--but only a confused murmur, for the door was
thick. When it opened again two other heads were peering
from behind Yussuf's.
"Has he money?" he asked.
"Kif? Ma indi khabar!" [How should I know?]
Yussuf opened the door wide and made a sign for me to enter. He
seemed in two minds whether to let Suliman come in with me or
not, but finally admitted him with a gruff admonition to keep
still in one place and not talk.
The place was fairly full. It was a square room, with one window
high in the wall on David Street. Around three sides, including
that on which was the front door, ran a wooden seat furnished
with thin cushions. Facing the front door was another one
leading to a dark hole in the rear, where pots were washed and
rice was boiled; beside that door, occupying most of the length
of the fourth wall, was a thing like an altar of dressed stone,
on which the coffee was prepared in dozens of little copper pots.
The benches being pretty well occupied, I was about to squat down
on the floor, but they made room for me close to the front door,
so I squatted on the corner of the bench and tucked my legs under
me. Suliman dropped down on the floor in front of me with his
head about level with my knees.
The other occupants of the room were all Syrian Arabs--not a
Bedouin among them. All of them wore more or less European
clothing, with the inevitable tarboosh, each set at a different
angle. You can guess the mentality of the Syrian by the angle of
that red Islamic symbol he wears on his head. The black tassel
normally hangs behind, and the steady-going conservatives and all
who take their religion seriously, wear the inverted flower-pot-
shaped affair as nearly straight up as the cranium permits.
But once let a Syrian take up new politics, join the Young Turk
Party, forswear religion, or grow cynical about accepted
doctrine, and the angle of his tarboosh shows it, just as surely
as the angle of the London Cockney's "bowler" betrays irreverence
and the New York gangster's "lid" expresses self-contempt
disguised as self-esteem.
The head-gears were set at every possible angle in that coffee-
shop of Yussuf's, from the backward tilt of the breezy optimist
to the far-forward thrust down over the eye of malignant
cynicism, which usually went with folded arms, legs thrust out
straight, and heels together on the floor.
Yussuf brought me coffee without waiting to be asked. I paid him
a half-piastre for it, which is half the proper price, and
utterly ignored his expostulation. He touched me on the
shoulder, displayed the coin in the palm of his hand and went
through a prodigious pantomime. I did not even try to appear
interested. He ordered Suliman to explain to me.
"Mafish mukhkh!" said the boy, touching his own forehead.
My real motive was to act as differently as possible from the
white man, who always pays twice what he should. By establishing
the suggestion of accustomed meanness, I hoped to offset any
breaks I might make presently. Spies, and people of that kind,
usually have plenty of money for their needs, so that by acting
the part of a man unused to spending except in minute driblets I
stood a better chance of not being detected.
But I was in luck. I have often noticed, so that it has become
almost an article of creed with me, that luck invariably breaks
that way. It almost never turns up blind. You sit down and wait
for luck, and it all goes to the other fellow. But start to use
your wits, even clumsily, and the luck comes along and squanders
itself on you.
"He is certainly from Damascus," laughed one of the customers.
"The price is a half-piastre in Damascus at the meaner shops."
I did not know anything about Damascus then--had never been
there; but from that minute it never entered the mind of one of
those men to doubt that Damascus was my home-city, so easily
satisfied by trifling suggestions is the unscientific human.
Yussuf went back to his charcoal stove grumbling to himself
But there was still one question in doubt. They seemed satisfied
that I was really deaf and dumb, but in that land of countless
mission schools and alien speech there is always a chance that
even children know a word or two of French. They tested Suliman
with simple questions, such as who was his mother and where was
he born; but he did not need to act that part, he was utterly
ignorant of French.
So they proceeded to ignore the two of us and turn their
political acrimony loose in French, discussing the maddest, most
unmoral schemes with the gusto of small boys playing pirates.
There seemed to be almost as many rival political parties as men
in the room. The only approach to unity was when they agreed to
accuse and destroy. As for constructive agreement, they had
none, and every one's suggestion for improvement was sneered at
by all the rest. They were not even agreed about the Zionists,
except hating them; they quarreled about what would be the
best way to take advantage of them before wiping them out
But they all saw exquisite humour in the item of news that
Eisernstein had taken so to heart.
"That was Noureddin Ali's idea! He is a genius! To accuse the
Zionists of offering two million pounds for the Dome of the
Rock--ah! who else could have thought of it! The story has spread
all through Jerusalem, and is on its way to the villages. In two
days it will be common gossip from Damascus to Beersheba. In a
week it will be known from end to end of Egypt; then Arabia;
then India! Ho! When the Indian Moslems get the news--the
Indian troops in Palestine will send it by mail--then what a
furor! Then what anger! That was finesse! That was true
statesmanship! Never was a shrewder genius than Noureddin Ali!"
"Don't shout his name too loud," said somebody. "The
Administration suspects him already."
"Bah! Who in this room is a friend of the Administration? The
Administrator is a broken shard; the British will summon him
home for inefficiency. Besides, there is only one man in
Jerusalem of whom Noureddin is in the least afraid--that Major
Grim, the American. And whoever would give the price of a cup of
coffee for a lease of the life of Major Grim in the circumstances
would do better to toss the money to the first beggar he meets!"
"Hah! All the same, I would not choose to be Noureddin's enemy."
"There is another one who will share that opinion--or so I have
heard. I was told that Bedreddin Shah, a recent recruit in the
police, stumbled by accident on certain evidence and demanded a
huge sum for silence. Hee-hee! How much will anybody give
Bedreddin Shah for his prospect?"
"What did Bedreddin Shah discover?"
"You mean nobody will tell."
"The same thing."
"How long could a secret be kept in Jerusalem, if you people were
informed of what is going on? You are good for propaganda, that
is all! You can talk--Allah! how you all talk! But as for doing
anything, or keeping a secret until a thing is done, you are no
better than magpies."
The last speaker was a rather fat man, over in the corner by the
scullery door. He had a nose like Sultan Abdul Hamid's and
large, elongated eyes that looked capable of seeing things on
either side of him while he stared straight forward. Even in
that dark corner you could see they had the alligator-hue that
one associates with cruelty. He had the massive shoulders and
forward-stooping position as he sat cross-legged on the seat that
suggest deliberate purpose devoid of hurry.
They all resented what he said, but none seemed disposed to
quarrel with him. One or two remonstrated mildly, but he ignored
their remarks, busying himself with digging out a cigarette from
a gold case set with jewels; after he had lighted it very
thoughtfully and examined the end once or twice to make sure that
it burned just right, he let it hang between his lips in a way
that accentuated the angle of his bulbous nose. You wondered
whether he owned a harem, and what the ladies thought of him.
"Will you sit and brag in here all day?" he asked after a few
minutes. "Yussuf must be getting rich, you sip so much coffee.
It is not particularly good for Yussuf to get rich; it will make
him lazy, as most of you are."
The chattering had ceased, although there were several attempts
to break that uncomfortable silence with inane remarks. His
ravenish, unpleasant voice seemed to act on the company like a
chill wind, depriving treason of its warm sociableness but
leaving in the sting.
"I said you are good for propaganda," he resumed, tossing away
ash with a reflective air. "But even that has no value within
four walls. If Noureddin Ali should come and learn from me how
much talking has been done in here, and how little done outside,
I can imagine he will not be pleased. Are there no other
kahawi?* Why is that story about the Zionists and their offer to
buy the Dome of Rock not being spread diligently? You like the
safety of this place with its four thick walls. But I tell you
the jackal has to leave his hole to hunt." [*Coffee-shops]
They did not like taking orders, even when they were expressed
more or less indirectly; no follower of the new political
freedom does like it, for it rather upsets the new conceit. But
he evidently knew his politicians, and they him. They got up one
by one and made for the door, each offering a different excuse
designed to cover up obedience under a cloak of snappy independence.
Not one of them drew a retort from him, or as much as a farewell nod.
When the last one was gone, and the process took up all of half-
an-hour, he sat and looked down his nose at me for several
minutes without speaking. You could have guessed just as easily
what an alligator was thinking about, and I tried to emulate him,
pretending to go off into the brown study that the Turks call
kaif, out of which it is considered bad manners to disturb your
best friend, let alone a stranger. But manners proved to be no
barrier in his case.
He began talking to me in Arabic--directly at me, slowly and
deliberately, but I did not understand very much of it and it was
not difficult to pretend I did not hear. However, Suliman was in
different case; the boy began to get very restless under the
monolog, and I tugged at his back hair more than once to remind
him of the part he had to play.
Discovering that the Arabic took no effect on me, the alligator
person changed to French.
"They speak French in Damascus. I know you are not deaf. You
are a spy. I know your name. I know what your business was
before you came here. I know why you want to see the staff-
captain. You have a letter for him; I know what is in it. No
use trying to deceive me; I have ways of my own of discovering
things. Do you know what happens to spies who refuse to answer
my questions? They are attended to. Quite simple. They receive
attention. Nobody hears of them again.
"There are drains in Jerusalem--big, dark, smelly, ancient, full
of rats--very useful drains. You think the Staff-Captain Ali
Mirza will protect you. At a word from me he will make the
request that you receive immediate attention. You will disappear
down a drain, where even Allah will forget that you ever existed.
Staff-Captain Ali Mirza is my old friend. Better let me see
I felt like laughing at the drain threats although Suliman was
still shivering from the effect of the earlier Arabic version.
But the statement that he knew the real Ali Mirza might be true,
in which case Grim's disguise was not going to last long.
However, the fact that he had not yet seen through my disguise
was some comfort. The wish being father of the thought, I
decided he was bluffing first and last. But he had not finished
yet. He tried me in English.
"The captain will give that letter to me in any case. It is
intended for me. I have other business now, and wish to save
time, so give it to me at once. Here, I will give you ten
piastres for it."
He pulled out a purse and unfolded a ten-piastre note. I took no
notice. He shook it for me to see, and I awoke like a pelican at
the sight of fish.
"Yours for that letter," he said, shaking it again.
I nudged Suliman and nodded to him. He crossed the room, seized
the ten-piastre note, and brought it back to me. I stowed it
away under my shirt.
"Come, now give me the letter."
I took utterly no notice, so he turned his attention to Suliman
again, and resumed in Arabic.
"Feel in his pocket and find the letter."
"I'm afraid," the boy answered.
"Of what? Of him? I will protect you. Take the letter from
Suliman chose to play the small boy, as he could very well indeed
when nothing could be gained by being devilish and ultra-grown-
up. He shook his head and grinned sheepishly.
"Has he any weapons?" was the next question.
"Ma indi khabar." [I don't know.]
Evidently assault and battery was to be the next item on the
program. He had not the eyes or the general air of a man who
will part with ten piastres for nothing. He called to Yussuf,
who came hurrying out of the scullery place. They held a
whispered conference, and Yussuf nodded; then he came over to
the front door and locked it, removing the key.
"Tell him to hand over that letter!" he ordered Suliman.
"Mafish mukhkh!" said the boy, tapping his forehead once more.
Suliman's notion was the right one after all--at any rate the
only one available. Old alligator rolled off his perch and
started for me. Yussuf timed his own assault to correspond.
They would have landed on me simultaneously, if Suliman had not
reminded me that madness is a safe passport nearly anywhere in
So I went stark, raving mad that minute. I once spent a night in
the room of an epileptic who had delirium tremens, and learned a
lot from him; some of it came to mind just when I needed it. If
ever a man got ten piastres' worth of unexpected side-show it was
that old Syrian with the alligator eyes. By the time I was quite
out of breath there wasn't a cushion or a coffee-pot fit for
business. Suliman was standing out of reach on the bench in a
corner yelling with laughter, while the two men struggled to get
through the scullery door, which was too narrow to admit them
both at once. I earned that ten piastres. By the same token
I did not let the kaffiyi fall off my head and betray my
Unable to think up any more original motions, and having breath
for none, I sat on the floor and spat repeatedly, having seen a
madman do that on the Hebron Road and get feared, if not
respected for it. There seems to be a theory prevalent in that
part of the world that the sputum of a madman is contagious.
But I overdid it. Most amateurs do overdo things.
They got so afraid that they decided to put me out into the
street at all costs, where those enemies of society, the police,
might demonstrate their ingenuity. Yussuf made a dash for the
front door, and I suppose he would have called in help and ended
my share in the adventure, if something had not happened.
The "something" was Noureddin Ali very much something in his
"Why didn't you open the door sooner?" he demanded. "I have been
knocking for two minutes."
He watched Yussuf lock the door again behind him, and then eyed
the disheveled room with amused curiosity. He was a rat-faced
little man dressed in a black silk jacket, worsted pants and
brown boots, with the inevitable tarboosh set at an angle of
sheer impudence--a man at least fifty years old by the look of
him, but full of that peppery vigor that so often clings to
little men in middle life. On the whole he looked more like a
school-teacher, or a lawyer then a conspirator; but Yussuf
addressed him with great deference as "Noureddin Ali Bey," and
even old alligator-eyes became obsequious.
Both Yussuf and the other man began explaining the situation to
him in rapid-fire Arabic. I, meanwhile, recovering from the fit
as fast as I dared and trying to remember how to do it.
Noureddin Ali was plainly for having me thrown out, until they
mentioned the name of Staff-Captain Ali Mirza; at that he tried
to cross-examine Suliman at great length, but could get nothing
out of him. Suliman had evidently overheard Grim talking about
Noureddin Ali, and was very much afraid of him.
"All right," Noureddin Ali said at last. "No more business
today, Yussuf. Keep the door locked, but admit the captain. We
must find out what this message is about."
Yussuf went to tidying up the place, while Noureddin Ali and the
alligator person talked excitedly in low tones in the corner near
the scullery door. I lay on the floor with one eye open,
expecting Grim every minute; but it must have been four in the
afternoon before he came, and all that while, with only short
intervals for food and coffee, Noureddin Ali and the other man
talked steadily, discussing over and over again the details of
Shortly after midday Suliman began to whimper for food. Yussuf
produced a mess of rice and mutton, of which the two Syrians ate
enormously before giving any to the boy; then they put what was
left in the dish on the floor in front of me, pretty much in the
way you feed a dog, and I hate to remember what I did to it.
It is enough that I did not overlook Grim's advice to eat
like a lunatic, and however suspicious of me Noureddin Ali
might otherwise have been he was satisfied at the end of
Several people tried the door, and some of them made signals on
it but Yussuf had a peep-hole where one of the heavy iron nails
had been removed, and after a cautious squint through it at each
arrival he proceeded to ignore them. One man thundered on the
door for several minutes, but was allowed to go away without as
much as a word of explanation.
That was the first incident that made me feel quite sure
Nourreddin Ali was in fear of the police. All the time the
thundering was going on he glanced furtively about him like a rat
in a trap. I saw him feel for a weapon under his arm-pit. When
the noise ceased and the impatient visitor went away he sighed
with relief. The place was certainly a trap; there was no back
way out of it.
When Grim came at last he knocked quietly, and waited in silence
while Yussuf applied his eye to the nail-hole. When he entered,
the only surprising thing about him seemed to me the thinness of
his disguise. In the morning, when I had seen him change in ten
minutes from West to East, it had seemed perfect; but, having
looked for him so long with the Syrian disguise in mind, it
seemed impossible now that any one could be deceived by it. He
was at no pains to keep the kaffiyi thing close to his face,
and I held my breath, expecting to see Noureddin Ali denounce
But nothing of that sort happened. Grim sat down, thrust his
legs out in front of him, leaned back and called for coffee. It
was obvious at once that the alligator person had been lying when
he boasted of knowing Staff-Captain Ali Mirza, for he made no
effort to claim acquaintance or to denounce him as an impostor.
But he nodded to Suliman, and Suliman came over and nudged me.
I let the boy go through a lot of pantomimic argument before
admitting that I understood, but finally I crossed the room to
Grim and offered him the envelope. He looked surprised, examined
the outside curiously, spoke to me, shrugged his shoulders when I
did not answer, tossed a question or two to Suliman, shrugged
again and tore the letter open. Then his face changed, and he
glanced to right and left of him as if afraid of being seen. He
stuffed the letter into his tunic pocket and I went back to the
corner by the front door.
Yussuf was pottering about, still rearranging all the pots and
furniture that I had scattered, but his big ears projected
sidewise and suggested that he might have another motive.
However, it was a simple matter to evade his curiosity by talking
French, and Noureddin All could contain himself no longer.
"Pardon me, sir? Staff-Captain Ali Mirza?"
Grim nodded suspiciously.
"I have heard of you. We have all heard of you. We are proud to
see you in Jerusalem. We wish all success to your efforts on
behalf of Mustapha Kemal, the great Turkish Nationalist leader.
Our prayer is that he may light such a fire in Anatolia as shall
spread in one vast conflagration throughout the East!"
"Who are you?" asked Grim suspiciously. (Evidently the real Ali
Mirza had a reputation for gruff manners.)
"Noureddin Ali Bey. It may be you have heard of me. I am not
without friends in Damascus."
"Oh, are you Noureddin Ali?" Grim's attitude thawed appreciably.
"We have been looking for more action and less talk from you. I
made an excuse to visit Jerusalem and discover how much fire
there is under this smoke of boasting."
"Fire! Ha-ha! That is the right word! There is a camouflage of
talk, but under it--Aha! You shall see!"
"Or is that more talk?"
"We are not all talkers. Wait and see!"
"Oh, more waiting? Has Mustapha Kemal Pasha waited in Anatolia?
Has he not set you all an example of deeds without words? Am I
to wait here indefinitely in Jerusalem to take him news of deeds
that will never happen?"
"Not indefinitely, my dear captain! And this time there will
really be a deed that will please even such a rigorous lover of
action as Mustapha Kemal!"
Grim shrugged his shoulders again.
"I leave for Damascus at dawn," he said cynically. "I don't care
to be mocked there for bringing news of promises. We have had
too many of those barren mares. I shall say that I have found
everything here is sterile--the talk abortive--the men mere windy
bellies without hearts in them!"
"I'll have nothing to do with it!"
Noureddin Ali was pained and upset. Grim had pricked his
conceit--had sent thrust home where he kept his susceptibilities.
He blinked, peered this and that way, exchanged glances with the
alligator person, and then tucked his legs up under him.
"In me you see a doer!" he announced. He looked the part. His
lean, pointed nose and beady little eyes were of the interfering,
meddling type. You could not imagine him, like the yellow-eyed
ruminant next to him, sitting and waiting ruthlessly for things
to happen. Noureddin Ali looked more likely to go out and
"So they all say!" Grim retorted.
"Some one should forewarn them in Damascus what a deed will occur
here presently. Above all, word should reach Mustapha Kemal, in
Anatolia, as soon as possible, so that he may be ready to act."
"All day long," said Grim, "I have wandered about Jerusalem,
listening to this and that rumour of something that may happen.
But I have not found one man who can tell me a fact."
"That is because you did not meet me. I am--hee-hee! I am the
father of facts. You say you leave for Damascus at dawn? You
are positive? I could tell you facts that would put a sudden end
to my career if they were spread about Jerusalem!"
"That is the usual boast of men who desire credit in the eyes of
the Nationalist Party," Grim retorted.
"I see you are skeptical. That is a wise man's attitude, but I
must be cautious, for my life is at stake. Now--how do you
propose to leave Jerusalem? There is no train for Damascus at
"I am on a diplomatic mission," answered Grim. "The
Administration have placed a car at my disposal to take me as far
as the border."
"Ah! And tonight? Where will you be tonight?"
"Because I propose to make a disclosure. And--ah--hee-hee!--you
would like to live, I take it, and not be sent back to Damascus
in a coffin? I have--ah--some assistants who--hee-hee!--would
watch your movements. If you were to betray me afterwards to the
Administration, there would remain at least--the satisfaction--
of--you understand me?--the certainty that you would suffer
Grim laughed dryly.
"I shall be at the hotel," he answered. "In bed. Asleep. The
car comes before dawn."
"That is sufficient. I shall know how to take essential
precautions. Now--you think I am a man of words, not deeds? You
were near the Jaffa Gate this morning, for I saw you there. You
saw a man killed--a policeman, name Bedreddin. That was an
unwise underling, who stumbled by accident on a clue to what I
shall tell you presently. He had the impudence to try to
blackmail me--me, of all people! You saw him killed. But did
you see who killed him? I--I killed him, with this right hand!
You do not believe? You think, perhaps, I lack the strength for
such a blow? Look here, where the force of it broke my skin on
the handle of the knife! Now, am I a man of words, not deeds?"
"You want me to report to Mustapha Kemal that all the
accomplishment in Jerusalem amounts to one policeman killed?"
"No, no! You mistake my meaning. My point is that having proved
to you I am a ruthless man of action, I am entitled to be
believed when I tell you what next I intend to do."
"There is going to be--hee-hee!--an explosion!"
"Where? When? Of what?"
"In Jerusalem, within a day or two, and of what? Why, of high
explosive, what else?"
"Much good an explosion in this city will do Mustapha Kemal!"
Grim grumbled. "You may kill a few beggars and break some
windows. The British will double the guards afterward at all the
city gates, and that will be the end of it; except that some of
you, who perhaps may escape being thrown into jail, will apply to
Mustapha Kemal for high commissions in his army on the strength
of it! Great doings! Mustapha Kemal will have no bastinadoed."
"Hee-hee! You are going to be surprised. What would you say to
an explosion, for instance, that destroyed the Dome of the Rock?"
"That might accomplish results."
"Hee-hee! You admit it! An explosion to be blamed on the
Zionists, who must afterward be protected by the British from the
mob! Would that not set India on fire?"
"It might help. But who is to do it?"
"You see the doer before you! I will do it."
"If I thought such a thing was really going to take place--"
"You would think that news worth carrying, eh? You would hurry
to Damascus, wouldn't you? And let me assure you, my dear
captain, speed is essential. There are reasons why the explosion
has not yet occurred--reasons of detail and difficulties to be
overcome. But now there is little further prospect of delay.
Everything is nearly ready. The explosive is not yet in place,
but is at hand. The authorities suspect nothing. There remains
only a little excavation work, and then--hee-hee!--nothing to do
but choose the hour when hundreds are in the mosque. Houp-la!
Up she goes. Does not the idea appeal to you?"
"Sensational--very," Grim admitted.
"Ah! But the utmost must be made of the sensation. Men must be
ready in Damascus to stir public feeling on the strength of it.
Word must go to Mustapha Kemal to strike hard while the iron is
hot. There must be reprisals everywhere. Blood must flow.
"The Europeans, French as well as British, must be goaded into
making rash mistakes that will further inflame the populace. It
must be shouted from the house-tops that the Jews have blown up a
Moslem sacred place, and that the British are protecting them.
There must be a true jihad* proclaimed against all non-Moslems
almost simultaneously everywhere. Do you understand now how
swiftly you must travel to Damascus?" [*Holy war.]
Grim nodded. "Yet these foreigners are cunning," he said
doubtfully. "Are you sure your plan is not suspected?"
"Quite sure. There was one man--a cursed interfering jackanapes
of an American, whom they all call Jimgrim, of whom I was afraid.
He is clever. He goes snooping here and there, and knows how to
disguise himself. But he fell downstairs this morning and broke
his thigh in two places. If anything could make me religious,
that would! If I were not a nationalist, I would say 'Glory
to God, and blessed be His Prophet, who has smitten him whom
"That broken leg might be a trick to put you off your guard,"
Grim suggested pleasantly.
"No. I made secret enquiries. He is in great pain. He may lose
the leg. The doctor who has charge of the case is a Major
Templeton, an irritable person and, like most of the English, too
big a fool to deceive anybody. No, luckily for Mister Jimgrim it
is not a trick. Otherwise he would have shared the fate today of
Bedreddin Shah the constable. The trap was all ready for him.
With the inquisitive and really clever out of the way there is
nothing to be feared. Now--pardon me, Captain Ali Mirza, but
that letter you received just now; would you like to show it
"Why?" Grim demanded, frowning, and bridling all over.
"Hee-hee! For the sake of reciprocity. I have told you my
secret. If it were not that I am more than usually circumspect,
and accustomed to protect myself, one might say that my life is
now in your hands, captain. Besides--hee-hee!--I might add that
Jerusalem is my particular domain. I would have no difficulty in
seeing that letter in any case. But there should be no need for
--hee-hee!--shall we call them measures?--between friends."
"I see you are a man of resource," said Grim.
"Of great resource, with picked lieutenants. May I see the
Grim produced it. Noureddin Ali took it between spidery fingers
and examined it like a schoolmaster conning a boy's composition.
But the expression of his face changed as he took in the
contents, holding the paper so that alligator-eyes could read
"Who wrote this?" he asked.
"Can't you read the signature? Enver Eyub."
"Who is he?"
"One of Mustapha Kemal's staff."
"So. 'In pursuing your mission you will also take steps to
ascertain whether or not Noureddin Ali Bey is a person worthy of
confidence.' Aha! That is excellent! So Mustapha Kemal Pasha
has heard of me?"
"And the rest of your mission?"
"And are you satisfied that I am to be trusted?"
"I think you mean business."
"Then you should tell me what is the nature of your secret
mission to Jerusalem. Possibly I can give you needed information.
If you have obtained information of value, you should confide in
me. I can be most useful when I know most."
Grim frowned. He began to look uneasy. And the more he did that,
the more delight Noureddin Ali seemed to take in questioning him,
but be pleaded his own case, too.
"The trouble with the Nationalist movement," he insisted, "is
lack of unity. There is no mutual confidence--consequently no
combination. There are too many intellects working at cross
purposes. You should tell me what is being done, so that I may
fit in my plans accordingly. When the Dome of the Rock has been
blown up there will be ample opportunity for putting into
execution a combined plan. You must confide in me."
"Suppose I get rid of that messenger and the boy first,"
Grim felt in his pocket and produced a purse full of bank notes.
But they were all big ones.
"Never mind, I have change," said Noureddin Ali. "How much will
you give him?"
"No," said Grim. "The boy can take him to the hotel. Let him
wait for me there. He has no further business here. He should
return to Damascus. He had better travel with me in the car
tomorrow morning. Take him to the hotel, and wait for me there,
you," he added in Arabic to Suliman.
Yussuf came and opened the door. Suliman took my hand and led me
out. The door slammed shut behind me, and a great Sikh, leaning
on his rifle at a corner thirty feet away, came to life just
sufficiently to follow me up-street with curious brown eyes.
"That is Narayan Singh," announced Suliman when we had passed
him. "He is Jimgrim's friend."
There was another Sikh just in sight of him at the next corner,
and another beyond him again, all looking rather bored but
awfully capable. None except the first one took the slightest
notice of us.
It was some consolation to know that "Jimgrim's friend" was on
guard outside Yussuf's. I had no means of knowing what weapons
Grim carried, if any, but was positive of one thing: if either
Noureddin Ali or the man with alligator eyes should get an
inkling of his real identity his life would not be worth ten
minutes' purchase. Including Yussuf, who would likely do as he
was told, there would be three to one between those silent walls,
and it seemed to me that Narayan Singh might as well be three
miles away as thirty feet. However, there was nothing I could do
It was late afternoon already, and the crowd was swarming all one
way, the women carrying the baskets and the men lording it near
enough to keep an eye on them. If Suliman and I were followed,
whoever had that job had his work cut out, for we were swallowed
up in a noisy stream of home-going villagers, whose baskets and
other burdens made an effectual screen behind us as well as
The hotel stands close by the Jaffa Gate, and there the crowd was
densest, for the outgoing swarm was met by another tide, of city-
folk returning. In the mouth of the hotel arcade stood an
officer whom I knew well enough by sight--Colonel Goodenough,
commander of the Sikhs, a quiet, gray little man with a monocle,
and that air of knowing his own mind that is the real key to
control of Indian troops. Up a side-street there were a dozen
troop-horses standing, and a British subaltern was making himself
as inconspicuous as he could in the doorway of a store. It did
not need much discernment to judge that those in authority were
ready to deal swiftly with any kind of trouble.
But the only glimpse I had of any mob-spirit stirring was when
three obvious Zionist Jews were rather roughly hustled by some
Hebron men, who pride themselves on their willingness to brawl
with any one. Two Sikhs interfered at once, and Goodenough, who
was watching, never batted an eyelash.
I was tired, wanted a whiskey and soda and a bath more than
anything else I could imagine at the moment. I was eager to get
to my room in the hotel. Suliman, being not much more than a
baby after all, wanted to go to sleep. We went past Goodenough,
who eyed me sharply but took no further notice, and we entered
the hotel door. But there we were met by Cerberus in the shape
of an Arab porter, who cursed our religion and ordered us out
again, threatening violence if we did not make haste.
Suliman argued with him in vain, and even whimpered. There was
nothing for it but to return to the arcade, where I sat down on a
step, from which a native policeman drove me away officiously. I
had about made up my mind to go and speak to Goodenough in
English, when Grim appeared. Not even Goodenough recognized him,
his Syrian stride was so well acted. He saluted, and the salute
was returned punctiliously but with that reserve toward a
foreigner that the Englishman puts on unconsciously. When Grim
spoke to him in Arabic Goodenough answered in the same language.
I did not hear what was said at first, but as I drew closer I
heard the sequel, for Grim changed suddenly to English.
"If you can't recognize me through that magnifying-glass of
yours, colonel, I must be one leopard who can really change his
spots. I'm Grim. Don't change your expression. Quick: look
around and tell me if I'm followed."
"Hard to say. Such a crowd here. There's a Syrian over the way
with a bulbous nose, who came along after you; he's leaning with
his back to the wall now, watching us."
"He's the boy."
"I see Narayan Singh has left his post. Did you give
"Yes. Told him to follow any one who followed me. I don't want
that fellow interfered with. He may stay there, or more likely
he'll call others to take his place; they'll watch all night, if
they're allowed to; let them. Wish you'd give orders they're to
be left alone. Then, please let Narayan Singh go off duty and
get some sleep; I'm going to want him all day tomorrow."
"All right, Grim; anything else?"
"First opportunity, I wish you'd come to Davey's room upstairs.
Now--long distance stuff again, sir--if any Syrian asks you about
me, you might say I was making sure the car would come for me
They exchanged salutes again as one suspicious alien to another.
Grim looked suitably surprised at sight of me, and led me and
Suliman back to the hotel, where Suliman wanted him to wreak dire
vengeance on the porter; he grew sulky when he discovered that
his influence with Grim was not sufficient for the purpose, but
forgot it, small boy fashion, ten minutes later, when he fell
asleep on the floor in a corner of Davey's room.
Davey did not look exactly pleased to see us, although he seemed
to like Grim personally, and was the first that day to see
through Grim's disguise at the first glance. Mrs. Davey, on the
other hand, was radiant with smiles--thrilled at the prospect of
learning secrets. She produced drinks and pushed the armchairs
up. When she learned who I was, her husband could hardly keep
her from putting on a costume too, to make a party of it.
Davey was reserved. He asked no questions. A gray-headed, gray-
eyed, stocky, sturdy-looking man, who had made impossibilities
come true on three continents, he waited for trouble to come to
him instead of seeking it. There was silence for several minutes
over the cigars and whiskey before Grim opened fire at last. He
talked straight out in front of Mrs. Davey, for she had mothered
Cosmopolitan Oil men in a hundred out-of-the-way places. She
knew more sacred secrets than the Sphinx.
"Any news about your oil concessions, Davey?"
"No. Not a word. We've got every prospect in the country marked
out. Nothing to do now but wait for the mandate, while the
Zionists go behind our backs to the Foreign Office and scheme for
the concessions. It's my belief the British mean to favor the
Zionists and put us in the ditch. The fact that we were first on
the ground, and lodged our applications with the Turks before the
war seems to make no difference in their lives."
"Well, old man, I've arranged for you to change your policy,"
"What in thunder do you mean?"
Mrs. Davey giggled with delight, but her husband
"I'm supposed to be Staff-Captain Ali Mirza of the
"I've heard of him. He's a bad one, Jim. He is one of those
Syrian Arabs who will accept any one's money, but who never stays
bought. Why masquerade as a scoundrel?"
"I was in a place just now with a bunch of murderers, who'd have
made short work of me if I couldn't give them a sound reason for
being in Jerusalem just now."
"Why not have 'em all arrested?"
"For the same reason, Davey, that your Oil Company isn't piping
ten thousand barrels a day from Jericho. The time is not yet.
Things haven't reached that stage. I told them your Oil Company
gave up hope long ago of getting a concession from the British,
and has decided to finance Mustapha Kemal."
Davey flung his cigar out of the window, and laid both hands on
his knees. His face was a picture of baffled indignation. But
his wife laughed.
"They were tickled to death," Grim continued. "I'm supposed to
be going to Damascus tomorrow morning with a hundred thousand
dollars in U.S. gold, obtained from you in ten small bags. We've
got to find some bags and pack them full of something heavy."
"I'll have nothing to do with it!" Davey exploded at last. "It's
a damned outrage! Why--this tale will be all over the place.
The Jews will get hold of it, and make complaints in London.
Next you know, the U.S. State Department will be raising blue
hell. Questions asked in Congress. Headlines in all the papers!
What do you suppose our people will think of me?"
"Refer them to your wife, Davey. She's got you out of much
"I'll drive the car straight up to OETA and lodge my protest
against this in less than fifteen minutes!"
"No need; Davey, old man. Goodenough will be in here presently.
Kick to him."
Mrs. Davey went into the next room and returned with a roll of
coarse cotton cloth.
"I've no bags, Jim, but if this stuff will do I can sew some
"Good enough, Emily, go to it."
"D'you want to lose me my job?" demanded Davey. But his wife
took up the scissors and smiled back at him.
"You know better than that. We've trusted Jim before."
"Listen, Davey; this thing's serious," said Grim.
"I know it is! So'm I! Nothing doing!"
"You're on the inside of an official secret."
"Curse all official secrets! My business is oil!"
"There'll be no oil in this man's land for any one for fifty
years if you won't play. There'll be a jihad instead. They're
planning to blow up the Dome of the Rock."
"Straight goods, Davey. Two tons of TNT stolen, and our friend
Scharnhoff, the Austrian, hunting for the Tomb of the Kings--
digging for it day and night--conspirators waiting to run in the
explosive as soon as the tunnel is complete."
"Why not arrest 'em at once?"
"We want to catch the principals red-handed, explosive and all.
We don't know where the explosive is yet. Bag the lot, and kill
the story. Otherwise, d'you see what it means, if the news leaks
out? They'll blame the attempt on the Jews. And the minute the
British protect the Jews there'll be all Moslem Asia on fire.
"Get you? Yes, I get you. I'll get hell from the home office,
though, for meddling in politics."
Goodenough came in then, rather a different man from the stern
little martinet who had stood in the throat of the arcade. He
was all smiles.
"Evening, Mrs. Davey," he said genially. "That one man went
away, Grim, and three took his place. They shan't be disturbed.
Narayan Singh has gone off duty. Now, Mrs. Davey, I've been told
that Americans all went dry, on account of a new religion called
the Volstead Act. D'you mean to say you'd tempt a thirsty
soldier with a dry martini?"
"The Enemy is nearly always useful if you leave him free to
The next item on the program was to awaken Suliman. He did not
want to wake up. He had lost all interest in secret service for
the time being. Even the sight of Mrs. Davey's New York candy
did not stir enthusiasm; he declared it was stuff fit for
bints,* not men. [*Women]
"All right then," Grim announced at last.
"School for you, and I'll get another side-partner."
That settled it. The boy, on whose lips the word dog was a foul
epithet, was actually proud to share a packing-case bedroom with
Julius Caesar the mess bull-dog. School, where there would be
other iniquitous small boys to be led into trouble, had no
particular terrors. But to lose his job and to see another boy,
perhaps a Jew or a Christian, become Jimgrim's Jack-of-all-jobs
was outside the pale of inflictions that pride could tolerate.
"I am awake!" he retorted, rubbing his eyes to prove it.
"Come here, then. D'you know where to find your mother?"
"At the place where I went yesterday."
"Take her some of Mrs. Davey's candy. Don't eat it on the way,
mind. Get inside the place if you can. If she won't let you in
try how much you can see through the door. Ask no questions. If
she asks what you've been doing, tell her the truth: say that
you cleaned my boots and washed Julius Caesar. Then come back
here and tell me all you've seen."
"Sending him to spy on his own mother, Jim?" asked Mrs. Davey as
Suliman left the room with candy in both fists. She paused from
stitching at the cotton bags to look straight at Grim.
"His mother is old Scharnhoff's housekeeper," Grim answered.
"Scharnhoff wouldn't stand for the boy, and drove him out. The
mother liked Scharnhoff's flesh-pots better than the prospects of
the streets, so she stayed on, swiping stuff from Scharnhoff's
larder now and then to slip to the kid through the back door.
But he was starving when I found him."
Mrs. Davey laid her sewing down.
"D'you mean to tell me that that old butter-wouldn't-melt-in-
his-mouth professor is that child's father?"
"No. The father was a Turkish soldier--went away with the
Turkish retreat. If he's alive he's probably with Mustapha Kemal
in Anatolia. Old Scharnhoff used to keep a regular harem under
the Turks. He got rid of them to save his face when our crowd
took Jerusalem. He puts up with one now. But he has the
thorough-going Turk's idea of married life."
"And to think I had him here to tea--twice--no, three times! I
liked him, too! Found him interesting."
"He is," said Grim.
"Very!" agreed Goodenough.
"If it weren't for that harem habit of his," said Grim, "some
acquaintances of his would have blown up the Dome of the Rock
about this time tomorrow. As it is, they won't get away with
it. Suliman came and told me one day that his mother was
carrying food to Scharnhoff, taking it to a little house in
a street that runs below the Haram-es-Sheriff. I looked into
that. Then came news that two tons of TNT was missing, on top
of a request from Scharnhoff for permission to go about at night
unquestioned. After that it was only a question of putting
two and two together--"
"Plus Narayan Singh," said Goodenough. "I still don't see, Grim,
how you arrived at the conclusion that Scharnhoff is not guilty
of the main intention. What's to prove that he isn't in the pay
of Mustapha Kemal?"
"I'll explain. All Scharnhoff cares about is some manuscripts he
thinks he'll find. He thinks he knows where they are. The
Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. I expect he tried pretty hard
to get the Turks to let him excavate for them. But the Turks
knew better than to offend religious prejudices. And perhaps
Scharnhoff couldn't afford to bribe heavily enough; his harem
very likely kept him rather short of money. Then we come along,
and stop all excavation--cancel all permits--refuse to grant
"Scharnhoff's problem is to dig without calling attention to what
he's doing. As a technical enemy alien he can't acquire
property, or even rent property without permission. But with the
aid of Suliman's mother he made the acquaintance of our friend
Noureddin Ali, who has a friend, who in turn has a brother, who
owns a little house in that street below the Haram-es-Sheriff."
"Strange coincidence!" said Goodenough. "It'll need a better
argument than that to save Scharnhoff's neck."
"Pardon me, sir. No coincidence at all. Remember, Scharnhoff
has lived in Jerusalem for fifteen years. He seems to have
satisfied himself that the Tomb of the Kings is directly under
the Dome of the Rock. How is he to get to it? The Dome of the
Rock stands in the middle of that great courtyard, with the
buildings of the Haram-es-Sheriff surrounding it on every
side, and hardly a stone in the foundations weighing less than
"He reasons it out that there must be a tunnel somewhere, leading
to the tomb, if it really is under the Dome of the Rock. I have
found out that he went to work, while the Turks were still here,
to find the mouth of the tunnel. Remember, he's an archaeologist.
There's very little he doesn't know about Jerusalem. He knows
who the owner is of every bit of property surrounding the
Haram-es-Sheriff; he's made it his business to find out. So
when he finally decided that this little stone house stands over
the mouth of the tunnel, all that remained to do was to get
access to it. He couldn't do that himself, because of the
regulations. He had to approach the Arab owner secretly and
indirectly. That's where Suliman's mother came in handy.
"She contrived the introduction to Noureddin Ali. Innocent old
Scharnhoff, who is an honest thief--he wouldn't steal money--
sacrilege is Scharnhoff's passion--was an easy mark for Noureddin
Ali. Noureddin Ali is a red-minded devil, so smart at seeing
possibilities that he is blind to probabilities. He is paid by
the French to make trouble, and he's the world's long-distance
double-crosser. I don't believe the French have any hand in this
job. Scharnhoff needed explosives. Noureddin Ali saw at once
that if that tunnel can be found and opened up there could be
an atrocity perpetrated that would produce anarchy all through
"As bad as all that?" asked Mrs. Davey.
"That's no exaggeration," Goodenough answered. "I've lived
twenty-five years in India, commanding Sikh and Moslem troops.
The Sikhs are not interested in the Moslem religion in any way,
but they'd make common cause with Moslems if that place were
blown up and the blame could be attached to Jews. It's the
second most sacred place in Asia. Even the Hindus would be
stirred to their depths by it; they'd feel that their own sacred
places were insecure, and that whoever destroyed them would be
protected afterwards by us."
"Gosh! Who'd be an Englishman!" laughed Davey.
"I don't see that it's proved yet that the idea of an explosion
wasn't Sharnhoff's in the first place," Goodenough objected.
"For one thing, he wouldn't want to destroy antiquities," said
Grim. "They're his obsession. He worships ancient history and
all its monuments. No, Noureddin Ali thought of the explosion.
He knew that Scharnhoff needed money, so he gave him French
money, knowing that would put old Scharnhoff completely in his
power. Then he tipped off some one down at Ludd to watch for a
chance to steal some TNT. He had better luck than he expected.
He got two tons of it. He didn't have all the luck, though.
His plan, I believe, was to time the fireworks simultaneously
with a French-instigated raid from El-Kerak. But the raid
didn't come off."
"Scharnhoff will hang!" said Goodenough.
"I think not, sir. He'll prove as meek as an old sheep when we
land on him."
"There, will the bags do?" asked Mrs. Davey.
"What are they for?" Goodenough asked.
"We're supposed to have a slush fund in this room of a hundred
thousand dollars," Davey answered dourly. "My Oil Company is
supposed to be buying up Mustapha Kemal! I see my finish, if
news of this ever reaches the States--or unless my version of it
gets there first!"
Grim turned to me.
"We've got to find two people to take your place and mine in the
car tomorrow morning. Perhaps you'd better go in any case;
you'll enjoy the ride as far as Haifa--stay there a day or two,
and come back when you feel like it. We'll find some officer to
masquerade as me."
But there I rebelled--flat, downright mutiny.
"If I haven't made good so far," I said, "I'll consider myself
fired, and hold my tongue. Otherwise, I see this thing through!
Send some one else on the joy-ride."
"Good for you!" said Davey.
"Dammit, man!" said Goodenough, staring at me through his
monocle. "The rest of us get paid for taking chances. The only
tangible reward you can possibly get will be a knife in your
back. Better be sensible and take the ride to Haifa."
"My bet is down," said I.
"Good," Grim nodded. "It goes. All the same, you get a joy-
ride. Can't take too many chances. Tell you about that later.
Meanwhile, will you detail an officer to come and spend the night
in this hotel and masquerade as me at dawn, sir? He can wear
this uniform that I've got on--somebody about my height."
"Turner will do that. What are you going to put in the bags?"
"Cartridges. They're heavy. You might tell Turner over the
phone to bring them with him."
At that point Suliman returned, sooner than expected, with news
that made Grim whistle. Suliman had not been inside the place
where his mother was. She would not let him. But he had seen
around her skirts as she stood in the partly opened door.
"There was a hole in the floor," said Suliman, "and a great stone
laid beside it. Also much gray dust. And I think there was a
light a long way down in the hole."
But that was not what made Grim whistle.
"What else? Did your mother say anything?"
"She was ill-tempered."
"That Scharnhoff had beaten her."
"I knew he'd make a bad break sooner or later. What did he beat
"Because she was afraid."
"That's a fine reason. Afraid of what?"
"He says she is to sell oranges. Four wooden benches have been
brought, and tomorrow they are to be set outside the door in the
street. Oranges and raisins have been bought, and she is to sit
outside the door and sell them. She is afraid."
"Fruit bought already? Can't be. Was it inside there?"
"No. It is to come tomorrow. She says she does not know how to
sell fruit, and is afraid of the police."
Grim and Goodenough exchanged glances.
"She says that if the police come everybody will be killed, and
that I am to keep watch in the street in the morning and give
warning of the police."
"That should teach you, young man, never to take a woman into
your confidence--eh, Mrs. Davey?" said Goodenough.
"We're certainly the slow-witted sex," she answered, piling the
finished bags one on top of the other on the table.
Grim took me after that to the hotel roof, whence you can see the
whole of Jerusalem. It was just before moonrise. The ancient
city lay in shadow, with the Dome of the Rock looming above it,
mysterious and silent. Down below us in the street, where a
gasoline light threw a greenish-white glare, three Arabs in
native costume were squatting with their backs against the low
wall facing the hotel.
"Noureddin Ali's men," said Grim, chuckling. "They'll help us to
prove our alibi. The enemy is nearly always useful if you leave
him free to make mistakes. You may have to spend the whole night
in the mosque--you and Suliman. I'll take you there presently.
Two of those men are pretty sure to follow us. One will probably
follow me back here again. The other will stay to keep an eye on
you. About an hour before dawn, in case nothing happens before
that, you and Suliman come back here to the hotel. The car shall
be here half-an-hour before daylight. You and Turner pile into
it, and those three men watch you drive away. They'll hurry off
to tell Noureddin Ali that Staff-Captain Ali Mirza and the
deaf-and-dumb man have really started for Damascus, bags of gold
"Turner must remember to drop a couple of bags and pick them up
again, to call attention to them. There'll be a change of
clothes in the car for you. When you've gone a mile or so, get
into the other clothes and walk back. If I don't meet you by the
Jaffa Gate, Suliman will, or else Narayan Singh. Things are
liable to happen pretty fast tomorrow morning. Let's go.
"I'm supposed to have found out somehow that you're awful
religious and want to pray, so it's the Dome of the Rock for
yours. Any Moslem who wants to may sleep there, you know. But
any Christian caught kidding them he's a Moslem would be for it--
short shrift. He'd be dead before the sheikh of the place could
hand him over to the authorities. If the TNT were really in
place underneath you, which I'm pretty sure it won't be for a few
hours yet, that would be lots safer than the other chance you're
taking. So peel your wits. Let Suliman sleep if he wants to,
but you'll have to keep awake all night."
"But what am I to do in there? What's likely to happen?"
"Just listen. The tunnel isn't through to the end yet, I'm sure
of it. If it were, they'd have taken in the TNT, for it must be
ticklish work keeping it hidden elsewhere, with scores of Sikhs
watching day and night. But they're very near the end of the
tunnel, or they wouldn't be opening up that fruit stand. You'll
hear them break through. When you're absolutely sure of that,
come out of the mosque and say Atcha--just that one word--to the
Sikh sentry you'll see standing under the archway through which
we'll enter the courtyard presently. That sentry will be Narayan
Singh, and he'll know what to do."
"What shall I do after that?"
"Suit yourself. Either return to the mosque and go to sleep, if
you can trust yourself to wake in time, or come and sit on the
hotel step until morning. Have you got it all clear? It's a
piece of good luck having you to do all this. No real Moslem
would ever be able to hold his tongue about it. They're
superstitious about the Dome of the Rock. But ask questions now,
if you're not clear; you mustn't be seen speaking in the street
or in the mosque, remember. All plain sailing? Come along,
then. If you're alive tomorrow you'll have had an adventure."
"Poor old Scharnhoff's in the soup."
We ate a scratch dinner with the Daveys in their room and started
forth. Grim as usual had his nerve with him. He led me and
Suliman straight up to the three spies who were squatting against
the wall, and asked whether there were any special regulations
that would prevent my being left for the night in the famous
mosque. On top of that he asked one of the men to show him the
shortest way. So two of them elected to come with us, walking
just ahead, and the third man stayed where he was, presumably in
case Noureddin Ali should send to make enquiries.
You must walk through Jerusalem by night, with the moon just
rising, if you want really to get the glamour of eastern tales
and understand how true to life those stories are of old Haroun-
al-Raschid. It is almost the only city left with its ancient
walls all standing, with its ancient streets intact. At that
time, in 1920, there was nothing whatever new to mar the setting.
No new buildings. The city was only cleaner than it was under
Parts of the narrow thoroughfares are roofed over with vaulted
arches. The domed roofs rise in unplanned, beautiful disorder
against a sky luminous with jewels. To right and left you can
look through key-hole arches down shadowy, narrow ways to carved
doors through which Knights Templar used to swagger with gold
spurs, and that Saladin's men appropriated after them.
Yellow lamplight, shining from small windows set deep in the
massive walls, casts an occasional band of pure gold across the
storied gloom. Now and then a man steps out from a doorway, his
identity concealed by flowing eastern finery, pauses for a
moment in the light to look about him, and disappears into
Half-open doors at intervals give glimpses of white interiors,
and of men from a hundred deserts sitting on mats to smoke great
water-pipes and talk intrigue. There are smells that are
stagnant with the rot of time; other smells pungent with
spice, and mystery, and the alluring scent of bales of
merchandise that, like the mew of gulls, can set the mind
traveling to lands unseen.
Through other arched doors, even at night, there is a glimpse of
blindfold camels going round and round in ancient gloom at the
oil-press. There are no sounds of revelry. The Arab takes his
pleasures stately fashion, and the Jew has learned from history
that the safest way to enjoy life is to keep quiet about it. Now
and then you can hear an Arab singing a desert song, not very
musical but utterly descriptive of the life he leads. We
caught the sound of a flute played wistfully in an upper room
by some Jew returned from the West to take up anew the thread
of ancient history.
Grim nudged me sharply in one shadowy place, where the street
went down in twenty-foot-long steps between the high walls of
windowless harems. Another narrow street crossed ours thirty
feet ahead of us, and our two guides were hurrying, only glancing
back at intervals to make sure we had not given them the slip.
The cross-street was between us and them, and as Grim nudged me
two men--a bulky, bearded big one and one of rather less than
middle height, both in Arab dress--passed in front of us. There
was no chance of being overheard, and Grim spoke in a low voice:
"Do you recognize them?" "I shook my head.
"Scharnhoff and Noureddin Ali!"
I don't see now how he recognized them. But I suppose a man who
works long enough at Grim's business acquires a sixth sense.
They were walking swiftly, arguing in low tones, much too busy
with their own affairs to pay attention to us. Our two guides
glanced back a moment later, but they had vanished by then into
the gloom of the cross-street.
There was a dim lamp at one corner of that crossing. As we
passed through its pale circle of light I noticed a man who
looked like an Arab lurking in the shadow just beyond it. I
thought he made a sign to Grim, but I did not see Grim return it.
Grim watched his chance, then spoke again:
"That man in the shadow is a Sikh--Narayan Singh's sidekick--
keeping tabs on Scharnhoff. I'll bet old Scharnhoff has cold
feet and went to find Noureddin Ali to try and talk him out of
it. Might as well try to pretty-pussy a bob-cat away from a hen-
yard! Poor old Scharnhoff's in the soup!"
Quite suddenly after that we reached a fairly wide street and the
arched Byzantine gateway of the Haram-es-Sheriff, through which
we could see tall cypress trees against the moonlit sky and the
dome of the mosque beyond them. They do say the Taj Mahal at
Agra is a lovelier sight, and more inspiring; but perhaps that
is because the Taj is farther away from the folk who like to have
opinions at second-hand. Age, history, situation, setting,
sanctity--the Dome of the Rock has the advantage of all those,
and the purple sky, crowded with coloured stars beyond it is more
wonderful over Jerusalem, because of the clearness of the
In that minute, and for the first time, I hated the men
who could plot to blow up that place. Hitherto I had been
Because it was long after the hour when non-Moslem visitors are
allowed to go about the place with guides, we were submitted to
rather careful scrutiny by men who came out of the shadows and
said nothing, but peered into our faces. They did not speak to
let us by, but signified admittance by turning uninterested backs
and retiring to some dark corners to resume the vigil. I thought
that the Sikh sentry, who stood with bayonet fixed outside the
arch, looked at Grim with something more than curiosity, but no
sign that I could detect passed between them.
The great white moonlit courtyard was empty. Not a soul stirred
in it. Not a shadow moved. Because of the hour there were not
even any guides lurking around the mosque. The only shape that
came to life as we approached the main entrance of the mosque was
the man who takes care of the slippers for a small fee.
Grim, since he was in military dress, allowed the attendant to
tie on over his shoes the great straw slippers they keep there
for that purpose. Suliman had nothing on his feet. I kicked off
the red Damascus slippers I was wearing, and we entered the
octagonal building by passing under a curtain at the rear of the
deep, vaulted entrance.
Nobody took any notice of us at first. It was difficult to see,
for one thing; the light of the lamps that hung on chains from
the arches overhead was dimmed by coloured lenses and did little
more than beautify the gloom. But in the dimness in the midst
you could see the rock of Abraham, surrounded by a railing to
preserve it from profane feet. Little by little the shadows took
shape of men praying, or sleeping, or conversing in low tones.
The place was not crowded. There were perhaps a hundred men in
there, some of whom doubtless intended to spend the night. All
of them, though they gave us a cursory glance, seemed disposed to
mind their own business. It looked for a minute as if we were
going to remain in there unquestioned. But the two spies who had
come with us saw a chance to confirm or else disprove our bona
fides, and while one of them stayed and watched us the other went
to fetch the Sheikh of the Mosque.
He came presently, waddling very actively for such a stout man--a
big, burly, gray-bearded intellectual, with eyes that beamed
intelligent good-humour through gold-rimmed glasses. He did not
seem at all pleased to have been disturbed, until he drew near
enough to scan our faces. Then his change of expression, as soon
as he had looked once into Grim's eyes, gave me cold chills all
down the back. I could have sworn he was going to denounce us.
Instead, he turned on the two spies. He tongue-lashed them in
Arabic. I could not follow it word for word. I gathered that
they had hinted some suspicion as to the genuineness of Grim's
pretension to be Staff-Captain Ali Mirza. He was rebuking them
for it. They slunk away. One went and sat near the door we had
entered by. The other vanished completely.
"Jimgrim! What do you do here at this hour?" asked the sheikh as
soon as we stood alone.
"Talk French," Grim answered. "We can't afford to be overheard."
"True, O Jimgrim! It is all your life and my position is worth
for you to be detected in here in that disguise at such an hour!
And who are these with you?"
"It is all your life and mosque are worth to turn us out!" Grim
answered. "When was I ever your enemy?"
"Never yet, but--what does this mean?"
"You shall know in the morning--you alone. This man, who can
neither hear nor speak, and the child with him, must stay in here
tonight, and go when they choose, unquestioned."
"Jimgrim, this is not a place for setting traps for criminals.