Part 5 out of 5
Set your watch outside, and none shall interfere with you."
"'Shall the heart within be cleansed by washing hands?'" Grim
quoted, and the shiekh smiled.
"Do you mean there are criminals within the mosque? If so, this
is sanctuary, Jimgrim. They shall not be disturbed. Set
watchmen at the doors and catch them as they leave, if you will.
This is holy ground."
"There'll be none of it left to boast about this time tomorrow,
if you choose to insist!" Grim answered.
"Should there be riddles between you and me?" asked the sheikh.
"You shall know all in the morning."
The sheikh's face changed again, taking on a look of mingled rage
"I know, then, what it is! The rumour is true that those cursed
Zionists intend to desecrate the place. This fellow, who you say
is deaf and dumb, is one of your spies--is he not? Perhaps he
can smell a Zionist--eh? Well, there are others! Better tell me
the truth, Jimgrim, and in fifteen minutes I will pack this place
so full of true Moslems that no conspirator could worm his way
in! Then if the Jews start anything let them beware!"
"By the beard of your Prophet," Grim answered impiously, "this
has nothing to do with Zionists."
"Neither have I, then, anything to do with this trespass. You
have my leave to depart at once, Jimgrim!"
"After the ruin--"
"There will be no ruin, Jimgrim! I will fill the place
"Better empty it of men! The more there are in it, the bigger
the death-roll! Shall I say afterwards that I begged leave to
set a watch, and you refused?"
"You--you, Jimgrim--you talk to me of ruin and a death-roll? You
are no every-day alarmist."
"Did you ever catch me in a lie?"
"No, Jimgrim. You are too clever by far for that! If you were
to concoct a lie it would take ten angels to unravel it! But--
you speak of ruin and a death-roll, eh?" He stroked his beard
for about a minute.
"You have heard, perhaps, that Moslems are sharpening their
swords for a reckoning with the Jews? There may be some truth in
it. But there shall be no gathering in this place for any such
purpose, for I will see to that. You need set no watch in here
on that account."
"The time always comes," Grim answered, "when you must trust a
man or mistrust him. You've known me eleven years. What are you
going to do?"
"In the name of God, what shall I answer! Taib,* Jimgrim, I will
trust you. What is it you wish?" [*All right.]
"To leave this deaf-and-dumb man and the boy, below the
"That cannot well be. Occasionally others go to pray in that
place. Also, there is a Moslem who has made the pilgrimage from
Trichinopoli. I myself have promised to show him the mosque
tonight, because he leaves Jerusalem at dawn, and only I speak a
language he can understand. There will be others with him, and I
cannot refuse to take them down below the Rock."
"That is nothing," Grim answered. "They will think nothing of a
deaf-and-dumb man praying or sleeping in a a corner."
"Is that all he wishes to do? He will remain still in one place?
"One other thing. That fellow who went and fetched you--he sits
over there by the north door now--he will ask you questions about
me presently. Tell him I'm leaving for Damascus in the morning.
If he asks what we have been speaking about so long, tell him I
brought you the compliments of Mustapha Kemal."
"I will tell him to go to jahannam!"
"Better be civil to him. His hour comes tomorrow."
The sheikh led the way along one side of the inner of three
concentric parts into which the mosque is divided by rows of
marble columns, until we came to a cavernous opening in the
floor, where steps hewn in the naked rock led downward into a
cave that underlies the spot on which tradition says Abraham made
ready to sacrifice his son.
It was very dark below. Only one little oil lamp was burning, on
a rock shaped like an altar in one corner. It cast leaping
shadows that looked like ghosts on the smooth, uneven walls. The
whole place was hardly more than twenty feet wide each way.
There was no furniture, not even the usual mats--nothing but
naked rock to lie or sit on, polished smooth as glass by
centuries of naked feet.
I was going to sit in a corner, but Grim seized my arm and
pointed to the centre of the floor, stamping with his foot to
show the exact place I should take. It rang vaguely hollow under
the impact, and Suliman, already frightened by the shadows,
seized my hand in a paroxysm of terror.
"You've got to prove you're a man tonight and stick it out!" Grim
said to him in English; and with that, rather than argue the
point and risk a scene, he followed the sheikh up the steps and
disappeared. Grim's methods with Suliman were a strange mixture
of understanding sympathy and downright indifference to sentiment
that got him severely criticized by the know-it-all party, who
always, everywhere condemn. But he certainly got results.
A legion of biblical and Koranic devils owned Suliman. They were
the child's religion. When he dared, he spat at the name of
Christianity. Whenever Grim whipped him, which he had to do now
and again, for theft or for filthy language, he used to curse
Grim's religion, although Grim's religion was a well-kept secret,
known to none but himself. But the kid was loyal to Grim with a
courage and persistence past belief, and Grim knew how to worm
the truth out of him and make him keep his word, which is more
than some of the professional reformers know how to do with
their proteges. I believe that Suliman would rather have earned
Grim's curt praise than all the fabulous delights of even a
But the kid was in torment. His idea of manliness precluded any
exhibition of fear in front of me, if he could possibly restrain
himself. He would not have minded breaking down in front of
Grim, for he knew that Grim knew him inside out. On the
contrary, he looked down on me, as a mere amateur at the game,
who had never starved at the Jaffa Gate, nor eaten candle-ends,
or gambled for milliemes* with cab-drivers' sons while picking up
odds and ends of gossip for a government that hardly knew of his
existence. In front of me he proposed to act the man--guide--
showman--mentor. He considered himself my boss. [*The smallest
coin of the country.]
But it was stem work. If there had been a little noise to make
the shadows less ghostly; if Suliman had not been full of half-
digested superstition; or if he had not overheard enough to be
aware that a prodigious, secret plot was in some way connected
with that cavern, he could have kept his courage up by swaggering
in front of me.
He nearly fell asleep, with his head in my lap, at the end of
half-an-hour. But when there was a sound at last he almost
screamed. I had to clap my hand over his mouth; whereat he
promptly bit my finger, resentful because he knew then that I
knew he was afraid.
It proved to be approaching footsteps--the sheikh of the mosque
again, leading the man from Trichinopoli and a party of three
friends. Their rear was brought up by Noureddin; Ali's spy,
anxious about me, but pretending to want to overhear the sheikh's
account of things.
The sheikh reeled it all off in a cultured voice accustomed to
using the exact amount of energy required, but even so his words
boomed in the cavern like the forethought of thunder. You
couldn't help wondering whether a man of his intelligence
believed quite all he said, however much impressed the man from
Trichinopoli might be.
"We are now beneath the very rock on which Abraham was willing to
sacrifice his only son, Isaac. This rock is the centre of the
world. Jacob anointed it. King Solomon built his temple over
it. The Prophet of God, the Prince Mahommed, on whose head be
blessings! said of this place that it is next in order of
holiness after Mecca, and that one prayer said here is worth ten
elsewhere. Here, in this place, is where King Solomon used to
kneel in prayer, and where God appeared to him. This corner is
where David prayed. Here prayed Mahommed.
"Look up. This hollow in the roof is over the spot where the
Prophet Mahommed slept. When he arose there was not room for him
to stand upright, so the Rock receded, and the hollow place
remains to this day in proof of it. Beneath us is the Bir-el-
Arwah, the well of souls, where those who have died come to pray
twice weekly. Listen!"
He stamped three times with his foot on the spot about two
feet in front of where I sat, and a faint, hollow boom answered
"You hear? The Rock speaks! It spoke in plain words when the
Prophet prayed here, and was translated instantly to heaven on
his horse El-Burak. Here, deep in the Rock, is the print of the
hand of the angel, who restrained the Rock from following the
Prophet on his way to Paradise. Here, in this niche, is where
Abraham used to pray; here, Elijah. On the last day the Kaaba
of Mecca must come to this place. For it is here, in this cave,
that the blast of the trumpet will sound, announcing the day of
judgment. Then God's throne will be planted on the Rock above
us. Be humble in the presence of these marvels."
He turned on his pompous heel and led the way out again without
as much as a sidewise glance at me. The spy was satisfied; he
followed the party up the rock-hewn steps, and as a matter of
fact went to sleep on a mat near the north door, for so I found
him later on.
The silence shut down again. Suliman went fast asleep, snoring
with the even cadence of a clock's tick, using my knees for a
pillow with a perfect sense of ownership. He was there to keep
care of me, not I of him. The sleep suggestion very soon took
hold of me, too, for there was nothing whatever to do but sit and
watch the shadows move, trying to liken them to something real as
they changed shape in answer to the flickering of the tiny, naked
flame. Thereafter, the vigil resolved itself into a battle
with sleep, and an effort to keep my wits sufficiently alert for
I had no watch. There was nothing to give the least notion of
how much time had passed. I even counted the boy's snores for a
while, and watched one lonely louse moving along the wall--so
many snores to the minute--so many snores to an inch of crawling;
but the louse changed what little mind he had and did not walk
straight, and I gave up trying to calculate the distance he
traveled in zigzags and curves, although it would have been an
interesting problem for a navigator. Finally, Suliman's
snoring grew so loud that that in itself kept me awake; it
was like listening to a hair-trombone; each blast of it rasped
You could not hear anything in the mosque above, although there
were only eleven steps and the opening was close at hand; for
the floor above was thickly carpeted, and if there were any
sounds they were swallowed by that and the great, domed roof.
When I guessed it might be midnight I listened for the voice of
the muezzin; but if he did call the more-than-usually faithful
to wake up and pray, he did it from a minaret outside, and no
faint echo of his voice reached me. I was closed in a tomb in
the womb of living rock, to all intents and purposes.
But it must have been somewhere about midnight when I heard a
sound that set every vein in my body tingling. At first it was
like the sort of sound that a rat makes gnawing; but there
couldn't be rats eating their way through that solid stone. I
thought I heard it a second time, but Suliman's snoring made it
impossible to listen properly. I shook him violently, and he
"Keep still! Listen!"
Between sleeping and waking the boy forgot all about the iron
self-control he practised for Grim's exacting sake.
"What is it? I am afraid!"
"Be still, confound you! Listen!"
"How close beneath us are the souls of the dead? Oh, I
"Silence! Breathe through your mouth. Make no noise at all!"
He took my hand and tried to sit absolutely still; but the
gnawing noise began again, more distinctly, followed by two or
three dull thuds from somewhere beneath us.
"Oh, it is the souls of dead men! Oh--"
"Shut up, you little idiot! All right, I'll tell Jimgrim!"
Fear and that threat combined were altogether too much for him.
One sprig of seedling manhood remained to him, and only one--the
will to smother emotion that he could not control a second
longer. He buried his head in my lap, stuffing his mouth with
the end of the abiyi to choke the sobs back. I covered his head
completely and, like the fabled ostrich, in that darkness he
Suddenly, as clear as the ring of glass against thick glass in
the distance, something gave way and fell beneath us. Then
again. Then there were several thuds, followed by a rumble that
was unmistakable--falling masonry; it was the noise that bricks
make when they dump them from a tip-cart, only smothered by the
thickness of the cavern floor. I shook Suliman again.
"Come on. We're going. Now, let me have a good account of you
to give to Jimgrim. Shut your teeth tight, and remember the part
you've got to play."
He scrambled up the steps ahead of me, and I had to keep hold of
the skirts of his smock to prevent him from running. But he took
my hand at the top, and we managed to get out through the north
door without exciting comment, and without waking the spy,
although I would just as soon have wakened him, for Grim seemed
to think it important that his alibi and mine should be well
established; however, there were two others watching by the
hotel. Ten minutes later I was glad I had not disturbed him.
I gave Suliman a two-piastre piece to pay the man who had charge
of my slippers at the door, and the young rascal was so far
recovered from his fright that he demanded change out of it, and
stood there arguing until he got it. Then, hand-in-hand, we
crossed the great moonlit open court to the gate by which Grim
had brought us in.
Looking back, so bright was the moon that you could even see the
blue of the tiles that cover the mosque wall, and the interwoven
scroll of writing from the Koran that runs around like a frieze
below the dome. But it did not look real. It was like a
dream-picture--perhaps the dream of the men who slept huddled
under blankets in the porches by the gate. If so, they
There was a Sikh, as Grim had said there would be, standing with
fixed bayonet on the bottom step leading to the street. He
stared hard at me, and brought his rifle to the challenge as I
approached him--a six-foot, black-bearded stalwart he was, with a
long row of campaign ribbons, and the true, truculent Sikh way of
carrying his head. He looked strong enough to carry an ox away.
"Atcha!" said I, going close to him.
He did not answer a word, but shouldered his rifle and marched
off. Before he had gone six paces he brought the rifle to the
trail, and started running. Another Sikh--a younger man--stepped
out of the shadow and took his place on the lower step. He was
not quite so silent, and he knew at least one word of Arabic.
"Imshi!" he grunted; and that, in plain U.S. American, means
I had no objection. It sounded rather like good advice.
Remembering what Grim had said about the danger I was running,
and looking at the deep black shadows of the streets, it occurred
to me that that spy, who slept so soundly by the mosque door,
might wake up and be annoyed with himself. When men of that type
get annoyed they generally like to work it off on somebody.
Rather, than admit that he had let me get away from him he might
prefer to track me through the streets and use his knife on me in
some dark corner. After that he could claim credit with
Noureddin Ali by swearing he had reason to suspect me of
something or other. The suggestion did not seem any more unreal
to me than the moonlit panorama of the Haram-es-Sheriff, or the
Sikh who had stepped out of nowhere-at-all to "Imshi" me away.
On the other hand, I had no fancy for the hotel steps. To sit
and fall asleep there would be to place myself at the mercy of
the other two spies, who might come and search me; and I was
conscious of certain papers in an inner pocket, and of underclothes
made in America, that might have given the game away.
Besides, I was no longer any too sure of Suliman. The boy was so
sleepy that his wits were hardly in working order; if those two
spies by the hotel were to question him he might betray the two
of us by some clumsy answer. If there was to be trouble that
night I preferred to have it at the hands of Sikhs, who are
seldom very drastic unless you show violence. I might be
arrested if I walked the streets, but that would be sheer profit
as compared to half-a-yard of cold knife in the broad of my back.
"Take me to the house where you talked with your mother," I said
So we turned to the left and set off together in that direction,
watched with something more than mild suspicion by the Sikh, and,
if Suliman's sensations were anything like mine, feeling about as
cheerless, homeless and aware of impending evil as the dogs that
slunk away into the night. I took advantage of the first deep
shadow I could find to walk in, less minded to explore than to
"But we're ready for them."
Without in the least suspecting it I had gone straight into a
blind trap, into which, it was true, I could not be followed by
Noureddin Ali's spy, but out of which there was no escape without
being recognized. The moment I stepped into the deep shadow I
heard an unmistakable massed movement behind me. Sure that I
could not be seen, I faced about. A platoon of Sikhs had
appeared from somewhere, and were standing at ease already,
across the end of the street I had entered, with the moonlight
silvering their bayonets.
Well, most streets have two ends. So I walked forward, not
taking much trouble about concealment, since it was not easy to
walk silently. If the Sikh can't see his enemy he likes to fire
first and challenge afterwards. I preferred to be seen. The
sight of those uncompromising bayonets had changed my mind about
the choice of evils. The knife of a hardly probable assassin
seemed a wiser risk than the ready triggers of the Punjaub.
Half-way down the street Suliman tugged at my cloak.
"That is the place where my mother is," he said, pointing to a
narrow door on the left.
But I was taking no chances in that direction--not at that
moment. The little stone house was all in darkness. There were
no windows that I could see. No sound came from it. And farther
down the street there was a lamp burning, whose light spelled
safety from shots fired at the sound of foot-fall on suspicion.
I wanted that light between me and the Sikh platoon, yet did not
dare run for it, since that would surely have started trouble.
It is my experience of Sikhs that when they start a thing they
like to finish it. They are very good indeed at explanations
after the event.
The Sikhs must have seen us pass through the belt of gasoline
light, but they did not challenge, so I went forward more slowly,
with rather less of that creepy feeling that makes a man's spine
seem to belong to some one else. Toward its lower end the street
curved considerably, and we went about a quarter of a mile before
the glare of another light began to appear around the bend.
That was at a cross-street, up which I proposed to turn more or
less in the direction of the hotel. But I did nothing of the
sort. There was a cordon of Sikhs drawn across there, too, with
no British officer in sight to enforce discretion.
Come to think of it, I have always regarded a bayonet wound in
the stomach as the least desirable of life's unpleasantries.
So Suliman and I turned back. I decided to investigate that dark
little stone house, after all; for it occurred to me that, if
that was the centre of conspiracy, then Grim would certainly show
up there sooner or later and straighten out the predicament.
Have you ever noticed how hungry you get walking about aimlessly
in the dark, especially when you are sleepy in the bargain?
Suliman began to whimper for food, and although I called him a
belly on legs by way of encouragement he had my secret sympathy.
I was as hungry as he was; and I needed a drink, too, which he
didn't. The little devil hadn't yet included whiskey in his list
The side of the street an which the little stone house stood was
the darker, so we sat down with our backs against its wall, and
the boy proceeded to fall asleep at once. The one thing I was
sure I must not do was imitate him. So I began to look about me
in the hope of finding something sufficiently interesting to keep
There was nothing in the street except the makings of a bad
smell. There was plenty of that. I searched the opposite wall,
on which the moon shone, but there was nothing there of even
architectural interest. My eyes traveled higher, and rested at
last on something extremely curious.
The wall was not very high at that point. It formed the blind
rear of a house that faced into a court of some sort approached
by an alley from another street. There were no windows. A small
door some distance to my left belonged obviously to the next
house. On top of the wall, almost exactly, but not quite, in the
middle of it, was a figure that looked like a wooden carving--
something like one of those fat, seated Chinamen they used to set
over the tea counter of big grocer's shops.
But the one thing that you never see, and can be sure of not
seeing in Jerusalem outside of a Christian church, is a carved
human figure of any kind. The Moslems are fanatical on that
point. Whatever exterior statues the crusaders for instance
left, the Saracens and Turks destroyed. Besides, why was it not
exactly in the middle?
It was much too big and thick-set to be a sleeping vulture. It
was the wrong shape to be any sort of chimney. It was certainly
not a bale of merchandise put up on the roof to dry. And the
longer you looked at it the less it seemed to resemble anything
recognizable. I had about reached the conclusion that it must be
a bundle of sheepskins up-ended, ready to be spread out in the
morning sun, and was going to cast about for something else to
puzzle over, when it moved. The man who thinks he would not feel
afraid when a thing like that moves in the dark unexpectedly has
got to prove it before I believe him. The goose-flesh broke out
all over me.
A moment later the thing tilted forward, and a man's head emerged
from under a blanket. It chuckled damnably. If there had been a
rock of the right size within reach I would have thrown it, for
it is not agreeable to be chuckled at when you are hungry,
sleepy, and in a trap. I know just how trapped animals feel.
But then it spoke in good plain English; and you could not
mistake the voice.
"That's what comes of suiting yourself, doesn't it! Place
plugged at both ends, and nowhere to go but there and back!
Thanks for tipping off Narayan Singh--you see, we were all ready.
Here's a pass that'll let you out--catch!"
He threw down a piece of white paper, folded.
"Show that to the Sikhs at either end. Now beat it, while the
going's good. Leave Suliman there. I shall want him when he has
had his sleep out. Say: hadn't you better change your mind
about coming back too soon from that joy ride? Haven't you had
enough of this? The next move's dangerous."
"Is it my choice?" I asked.
"We owe you some consideration."
"Then I'm in on the last act."
"All right. But don't blame me. Turner will give you orders.
Get a move on."
I lowered Suliman's head gently from my knee on to a nice
comfortable corner of the stone gutter, and went up-street to
interview the Sikhs. It was rather like a New York Customs
inspection, after your cabin steward has not been heavily enough
tipped, and has tipped off the men in blue by way of distributing
the discontent. I showed them the safe-pass Grim had scribbled.
They accepted that as dubious preliminary evidence of my right to
be alive, but no more. I was searched painstakingly and
ignominiously for weapons. No questions asked. Nothing taken
for granted. Even my small change was examined in the moonlight,
coin by coin, to make sure, I suppose, that it wouldn't explode
if struck on stone. They gave everything back to me, including
A bearded non-commissioned officer entered a description of me in
a pocket memorandum book. If his face, as he wrote it, was
anything to judge by he described me as a leper without a
license. Then I was cautioned gruffly in an unknown tongue and
told to "imshi!" It isn't a bad plan to "imshi" rather quickly
when a Sikh platoon suggests your doing it. I left them standing
all alone, with nothing but the empty night to bristle at.
The rest of that night, until half-an-hour before dawn was a
half-waking dream of discomfort and chilly draughts in the mouth
of the hotel arcade, where I sat and watched the spies, and they
watched me. The third man was presumably still sleeping in the
mosque, but it was satisfactory to know that the other two were
just as cold and unhappy as I felt.
About ten minutes before the car came the third man showed up
sheepishly, looking surprised as well as relieved to find me
sitting there. He put in several minutes explaining matters to
his friends. I don't doubt he lied like a horse-trader and gave
a detailed account of having followed me from place to place, for
he used a great deal of pantomimic gesture. The other two were
cynical with the air of men who must sit and listen to another
blowing his own trumpet.
The car arrived with a fanfare of horn-blowing, the chauffeur
evidently having had instructions to call lots of attention to
himself. Turner came out at once, with the lower part of his
face protected against the morning chill by a muffler. Being
about the same height, and in that Syrian uniform, he looked
remarkably like Grim, except that he did not imitate the stride
nearly as well.
He stumbled over me, clutched my shoulder and made signs for the
benefit of the spies. Then he whispered to me to help him carry
out the "money" bags. So we each took three for the first trip,
and each contrived to drop one. By the time all ten bags were in
the car there can hardly have remained any doubt in the
conspirators' minds that we were really taking funds to Mustapha
Kemal, or at any rate to somebody up north.
But Davey was no half-way concession maker. Having lent himself
unwillingly to the trick, he did his utmost to make it succeed,
like a good sport. He stuck his head out of a bedroom window.
"Don't forget, now, to send me those rugs from Damascus!"
It all went like clockwork. Glancing back as we drove by the
Jaffa Gate I saw the three spies walk away, and there is very
often more information in men's backs than in their faces. They
walked like laborers returning home with a day's work behind
them, finished; not at all like men in doubt, nor as if they
suspected they were followed, although in fact they were. Three
Sikhs emerged from the corner by the Gate and strolled along
behind them. Detailed preparations for the round-up had begun.
The unostentatious mechanism of it seemed more weird and terrible
than the conspiracy itself.
There was a full company of Sikhs standing to arms in a side
street leading off the Jaffa Road, but they took no notice of us.
Their officer looked keenly at us once, and then very
deliberately stared the other way, illustrating how some fighting
men make pretty poor dissemblers; every one of his dark-skinned
rank and file had observed all the details of our outfit without
seeming to see us at all.
"We're using nothing but Sikhs on this job," said Turner.
"British troops wouldn't appreciate the delicacy of the
situation. Moslems couldn't be trusted not to talk. The Sikhs
enjoy the surreptitious part of it, and don't care enough about
the politics to get excited. Wish I might be in at the finish,
though! Have you any notion what the real objective is?"
"No," said I, and tried not to feel, or look pleased with myself.
But no mere amateur can conceal that, in the moment of discovery,
he knows more about the inside of an official business than one
of the Administration's lawful agents. That is nine-tenths of
the secret of "bossed" politics--the sheer vanity of being on the
inside, "in the know." I suppose I smirked. "Damn this ride
to Haifa! What the hell have you done, I wonder, that you should
have a front pew? Is the Intelligence short of officers?"
I had done nothing beyond making Grim's acquaintance and by good
luck tickling his flair for odd friendship. I thought it better
not to say that, so I went on lying.
"I don't suppose I know any more than you do."
"Rot! I posted the men who watched you into Djemal's place
yesterday, and watched you out again. You acted pretty poorly,
if you ask me. It's a marvel we didn't have to go in there and
rescue you. I suppose you're another of Grim's favorites. He
picks some funny ones. Half the men in jail seem to be friends
I decided to change the subject.
"I was told to change clothes and walk back after a mile or so,"
I said. "Suppose we don't make it a Marathon. Why walk farther
than we need to?"
I think he was feeling sore enough to take me ten miles for the
satisfaction of making me tramp them back to Jerusalem. But it
turned out not to be his day for working off grievances. We were
bowling along pretty fast, and had just reached open country
where it would be a simple matter to change into other clothes
without risk of being seen doing it, when we began to be
overhauled by another, larger car that came along at a terrific
pace. It was still too dark to make out who was in it until it
drew almost abreast.
"The Administrator by the Horn Spoon! What next, I wonder! Pull
up!" said Turner. "Morning, sir."
The two cars came to a standstill. The Administrator leaned out.
"I think I can save you a walk," he said, smiling. "How about
changing your clothes between the cars and driving back with me?"
I did not even know yet what new disguise I was to assume, but
Turner opened a hand-bag and produced a suit of my own clothes
and a soft hat.
"Burgled your bedroom," he explained.
All he had forgotten was suspenders. No doubt it would have
given him immense joy to think of me walking back ten miles
Sir Louis gave his orders while I changed clothes.
"You'd better keep going for some time, Turner. No need to go
all the way to Haifa, but don't get back to Jerusalem before
noon at the earliest, and be sure you don't talk to anybody on
Turner drove on. I got in beside the Administrator.
"Grim tells me that you don't object to a certain amount of risk.
You've been very useful, and he thinks you would like to see the
end of the business. I wouldn't think of agreeing to it, only we
shall have to call on you as a witness against Scharnhoff and
Noureddin Ali. As you seem able to keep still about what you
know, it seems wiser not to change witnesses at this stage. It
is highly important that we should have one unofficial observer,
who is neither Jew nor Moslem, and who has no private interest to
serve. But I warn you, what is likely to happen this morning
will be risky."
I looked at the scar on his cheek, and the campaign ribbons, and
the attitude of absolute poise that can only be attained by years
of familiarity with danger.
"Why do you soldiers always act like nursemaids toward
civilians?" I asked him. "We're bone of your bone."
"Entrenched privilege! If we let you know too much you'd think
too little of us!"
We stopped at a Jew's store outside the city for suspenders, and
then made the circuit outside the walls in a whirlwind of dust,
stopping only at each gate to get reports from the officers
commanding companies drawn up in readiness to march in and police
"It's all over the place that disaster of some sort is going to
happen today," said Sir Louis. "It only needs a hatful of
rumours to set Jerusalemites at one another's throats. But we're
ready for them. The first to start trouble this morning will be
the first to get it. Now--sorry you've no time for breakfast--
here's the Jaffa Gate. Will you walk through the city to that
street where Grim talked with you from a roof last night? You'll
find him thereabouts. Sure you know the way? Good-bye. Good
luck! No, you won't need a pass; there'll be nobody to
interfere with you."
"Dead or alive, sahib."
I did get breakfast nevertheless, but in a strange place. The
city shutters were coming down only under protest, because, just
as in Boston and other hubs of sanctity, shop-looting starts less
than five minutes after the police let go control. There was an
average, that morning, of about ten rumours to the ear. So the
shop-keepers had to be ordered to open up. About the mildest
rumour was that the British had decide to vacate and to leave the
Zionists in charge of things. You couldn't fool an experienced
Jew as to what would happen in that event. There was another
rumour that Mustapha Kemal was on the march. Another that an
Arab army was invading from the direction of El-Kerak. But there
were British officers walking about with memorandum books, and a
fifty-pound fine looked more serious than an outbreak that had
not occurred yet. So they were putting down their shutters.
I had nearly reached the Haram-es-Sheriff, and was passing a
platoon of Sikhs who dozed beside their rifles near a street
corner, when Grim's voice hailed me through the half-open door
behind them. He was back in his favourite disguise as a Bedouin,
squatting on a mat near the entrance of a vaulted room, where he
could see through the door without being seen.
"This is headquarters for the present," he explained. "Soon as
we bag the game we'll run 'em in here quick as lightning. Most
likely keep 'em here all day, so's not to have to parade 'em
through the streets until after dark. A man's coming soon with
coffee and stuff to eat."
"What's become of Suliman?"
"He's shooting craps with two other young villains close to
where you left him last night. I'm hoping he'll get word with
Grim looked more nervous than I had ever seen him. There was a
deep frown between his eyes. He talked as if he were doing it to
keep himself from worrying.
"What's eating you?" I asked.
"Noureddin Ali. After all this trouble to bag the whole gang
without any fuss there's a chance he's given us the slip. I
watched all night to make sure he didn't come out of that door.
He didn't. But I've no proof he's in there. Scharnhoff's in
there, and five of the chief conspirators. Noureddin Ali may be.
But a man brought me a story an hour ago about seeing him on the
city wall. However, here's the food. So let's eat."
He sat and munched gloomily, until presently Goodenough joined
us, looking, what with that monocle and one thing and another, as
if he had just stepped out of a band-box.
"Well, Grim, the net's all ready. If that TNT is where you say
it is, in that big barn behind the fruit-stalls near the Jaffa
Gate, it's ours the minute they make a move."
"There isn't a doubt on that point," Grim answered. "Why else
should Scharnhoff open a fruit-shop? The license for it was
taken out by one of Noureddin Ali's agents, whose brother deals
in fruit wholesale and owns that barn. Narayan Singh tracked
some suspicious packages to that place four days ago. They'll
start to carry it into the city hidden under loads of fruit just
as soon as the morning crowd begins to pour in. We only need let
them get the first consignment in, so as to have the chain of
evidence complete. Are you sure your men will let the first lot
"Absolutely. Just came from giving them very careful
instructions. The minute that first load disappears into the city
they'll close in on the barn and arrest every one they find in
there. But what are you gloomy about?"
"I'd hate to miss the big fish."
"You mean Noureddin Ali ?"
"It looks to me as if he's been a shade too wise for us. One man
swore he saw him on the wall this morning, but he was gone when I
sent to make sure. We've got all the rest. There are five in
Djemal's Cafe, waiting for the big news; they'll be handcuffed
one at a time by the police when they get tired of waiting and
"But I'd rather bag Noureddin Ali than all the others put
together. He's got brains, that little beast has. He'd know how
to use this story against us with almost as much effect as if
he'd pulled the outrage off."
He had hardly finished speaking when Narayan Singh's great bulk
darkened the doorway. He closed the door behind him, as if
afraid the other Sikhs might learn bad news.
"It is true, sahib. He was on the wall. He is there again."
"Have you seen him?"
"Surely. He makes signals to the men who are loading the donkeys
now in the door of the barn. It would be a difficult shot. His
head hardly shows between the battlements. But I think I could
hit him from the road below. Shall I try?"
"No, you'd only scare him into hiding if you miss. Oh hell!
There are three ways up on to the wall at that point. There's no
time to block them all--not if he's signalling now. He'll see
your men close in on the barn, sir, and beat it for the skyline.
Oh, damn and blast the luck!"
"At least we can try to cut him off," said Goodenough. "I'll
take some men myself and have a crack at it."
"No use, sir. You'd never catch sight of him. I wish you'd let
Narayan Singh take three men, make for the wall by the shortest
way, and hunt him if it takes a week."
"Why not? All right. D'you hear that, Narayan Singh?"
"You understand?" said Grim. "Keep him moving. Keep after him."
"Do the sahibs wish him alive or dead?"
"Either way," said Goodenough.
"If he's gone from the wall when you get there," Grim added,
"bring us the news. You'll know where to find us"
The Sikh brought his rifle to the shoulder, faced about,
marched out, chose three men from the platoon in the street,
"Too bad, too bad!" said Goodenough, but Grim did not answer. He
was swearing a blue streak under his breath. The next to arrive
on the scene was Suliman, grinning with delight because he had
won all the money of the other urchins, but brimming with news in
the bargain. He considered a mere colonel of cavalry beneath
notice, and addressed himself to Grim without ceremony.
"My mother brought out oranges in baskets and set them on benches
on both sides of the door. Then she went in, and I heard her
scream. There was a fight inside."
"D'you care to bet, sir?" asked Grim.
"I'll bet you a hundred piastres Scharnhoff has tried to make his
get-away, and they've either killed him or tied him hand and
foot. Another hundred on top of that, that Scharnhoff offers to
turn state witness, provided he's alive when we show up."
"All right. I'll bet you he hangs."
"Are you coming with us, sir?"
"Wouldn't miss it for a king's ransom."
"The back way out, then."
Grim beckoned the Sikhs into the room, left one man in there in
charge of Suliman, who swore blasphemously at being left behind,
and led the way down a passage that opened into an alley
connecting with a maze of others like rat runs, mostly arched
over and all smelly with the unwashed gloom of ages. At the end
of the last alley we entered was a flight of stone steps, up
which we climbed to the roof of the house on which I had seen
Grim the night before.
There was a low coping on the side next the street, and some one
had laid a lot of bundles of odds and ends against it; lying
down, we could look out between those without any risk of being
seen from below, but Goodenough made the Sikhs keep well in the
background and only we three peered over the edge. About two
hundred yards in front of us the Dome of the Rock glistened in
the morning sun above the intervening roofs. The street was
almost deserted, although the guards at either end had been
removed for fear of scaring away the conspirators. We watched
for about twenty minutes before any one passed but occasional
beggars, some of whom stopped to wonder why oranges should stand
on sale outside a door with nobody in charge of them. Three
separate individuals glanced right and left and then helped
themselves pretty liberally from the baskets.
But at last there came five donkeys very heavily loaded with
oranges and raisins, in charge of six men, which was a more than
liberal allowance. When they stopped at the little stone house
in front of us there was another thing noticeable; instead of
hitting the donkeys hard on the nose with a thick club, which is
the usual way of calling a halt in Palestine, they went to the
heads and stopped them reasonably gently. So, although all six
men were dressed to resemble peasants, they were certainly
nothing of the kind.
Nor were they such wide-awake conspirators as they believed
themselves, for they were not in the least suspicious of six
other men, also dressed as peasants, who followed them up-street,
and sat down in full view with their backs against a wall. Yet I
could see quite plainly the scabbard of a bayonet projecting
through a hole in the ragged cloak of the nearest of those
They had to knock several minutes before the door opened
gingerly; then they off-loaded the donkeys, and it took two men
to carry each basketful, with a third lending a hand in case of
accident. Only one man went back with the donkeys, and two of
the casual loafers against the wall got up to saunter after him;
the other five honest merchants went inside, and we heard the
bolt shoot into its iron slot behind them.
"How about it, Grim?" asked Goodenough then.
"Ready, sir. Will you give the order?"
We filed in a hurry down the steps into the alley, ran in a zig-
zag down three passages, and reached another alley with narrow
door at its end that faced the street. Grim had made every
preparation. There was a heavy baulk of timber lying near the
door, with rope-handles knotted into holes bored through it at
intervals. The Sikhs picked that up and followed us into
The mechanism of the Administration's net was a thing to wonder
at. As we emerged through the door the "peasants" who were
loafing with their backs against the wall got up and formed a
cordon across the street. Simultaneously, although I neither saw
nor heard any signal, a dozen Sikhs under a British officer came
down the street from the other direction at the double and formed
up in line on our lefthand. A moment later, our men were
battering the door down with their baulk of timber, working all
together as if they had practised the stunt thoroughly.
It was a stout door, three inches thick, of ancient olivewood and
reinforced with forged iron bands. The hinges, too, had been
made by hand in the days when, if a man's house was not his
fortress, he might just as well own nothing; they were cemented
deep into the wall, and fastened to the door itself with half-
inch iron rivets. The door had to be smashed to pieces, and the
noise we made would have warned the devils in the middle of
"We shouldn't have let them get in with any TNT at all," said
Goodenough. "They'll touch it off before we can prevent them."
"Uh-uh! They're not that kind," Grim answered. "They'll fight
for their skins. Have your gun ready, sir. They've laid their
plans for a time-fuse and a quick getaway. They'll figure the
going may be good still if they can once get past us. Look out
for a rush!"
But when the door went down at last in a mess of splinters
there was no rush--nothing but silence--a dark, square, stone
room containing two cots and a table, and fruit scattered all
over the floor amid gray dust and fragments of cement. Grim
The fruit-baskets were on the floor by one of the cots, and the
TNT containers were still in them. They had tipped out the
fruit, and then run at the sound of the battering ram.
Goodenough stepped into the room, and we followed him. Beyond
the table, half-hidden by a great stone slab, was a dark hole in
the floor. Evidently the last man through had tried to cover up
the hole, but had found the stone too heavy. The Sikhs dragged
it clear and disclosed the mouth of a tunnel, rather less than a
man's height, sloping sharply downward.
"What we need now is mustard gas. Smoke 'em out,"
"Might kill 'em," Grim objected.
"That'd be too bad, wouldn't it!"
"We could starve 'em out, for that matter," said Grim. "But
they've probably got water down there, and perhaps food. Every
hour of delay adds to the risk of rioting. We've got to get this
hole sealed up permanently, and deny that it was ever opened."
"We could do that at once! But I won't be a party to sealing 'em
"Besides, sir, they've certainly got firearms, and they might
just possible have one can of TNT down there."
"All right," said Goodenough. "I'll lead the way down."
"I've a plan," said Grim.
He took one of the fruit-baskets and began breaking it up.
"Who has a white shirt?" he asked.
I was the haberdasher. The others, Sikhs included, were all
clothed in khaki from coat to skin. Grim's Bedouin array was
dark-brown. I peeled the shirt off, and Grim rigged it on a
frame of basket-work, with a clumsy pitch-forked arrangement of
withes at the bottom. The idea was not obvious until he twisted
the withes about his waist; then, when he bent down, the shirt
stood up erect above him.
"If you don't mind, sir, we'll have two or three Sikhs go first.
Have them take their boots off and crawl quietly as flat down as
they can keep. I'll follow 'em with this contraption. They'll
be able to see the white shirt dimly against the tunnel, and if
they do any shooting they'll aim at that. Then if the rest of
you keep low behind me we've a good chance to rush them before
they can do any damage."
I never met a commanding officer more free from personal conceit
than Goodenough, and as I came to know more of him later on that
characteristic stood out increasingly. He was not so much a man
of ideas as one who could recognize them. That done, he made use
of his authority to back up his subordinates, claiming no credit
for himself but always seeing to it that they got theirs.
The result was that he was simultaneously despised and loved--
despised by the self-advertising school, of which there are
plenty in every army, and loved--with something like fanaticism
by his junior officers and men.
"I agree to that," he said simply, screwing in his monocle. Then
he turned and instructed the Sikhs in their own language.
"You follow last," he said to me. "Now--all ready?"
He had a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other, but
had to stow them both away again in order to crawl in the tunnel.
Grim had no weapon in sight. The two Sikhs who were to lead had
stripped themselves of everything that might make a noise, but
the others kept both boots and rifles, with bayonets fixed, for
it did not much matter what racket they made. In fact, the more
noise we, who followed, made, the better, since that would draw
attention from the Sikhs in front. All we had to do was to keep
our bodies below Grim's kite affair, out of the probable line
Nevertheless, that dark hole was untempting. A dank smell came
out of it, like the breath of those old Egyptian tombs in which
the bones of horses, buried with their masters, lie all about on
shelves. You couldn't see into it more than a yard or two, for
the only light came through the doorway of the windowless room,
and the tunnel led into the womb of rock where, perhaps, no light
had been since Solomon's day.
But the leading Sikhs went in without hesitation and got down on
their bellies. They might have been swallowed whole for all that
I heard or saw of them from that minute. You could guess why the
Turks and Germans had not really craved to meet those fellows out
Grim went in on all-fours like a weird animal, with my shirt
dancing on its frame above his back. Goodenough went next,
peering through that window-pane monocle like a deep-sea fish.
All the rest of the Sikhs went after him in Indian file, dragging
their rifle-butts along the tunnel floor and making noise enough
to remind you of the New York subway.
I went in at the tail end, trying at intervals to peer around a
khaki-covered Punjaub rump, alternately getting my head and
fingers bruised by heels I could not see and a rifle-butt that
only moved in jerks when you didn't expect it to. My nose was
bleeding at the end of ten yards.
But you couldn't keep your distance. Whenever the men in front
checked at some obstruction or paused to listen, all those behind
closed up; and by the time those behind had run their noses
against iron-shod heels the men in front were on their way again.
You couldn't see a thing until you rammed your head into it, and
then the sense of touch gave you a sort of sight suggestion, as
when you see things in a dream. As for sound, the tunnel acted
like a whispering gallery, mixing all the noises up together, so
that you could not guess whether a man had spoken, or a stone had
fallen, or a pistol had gone off, or all three.
Once or twice, when the line closed up on itself caterpillar-
fashion, I was able to make out my white shirt dancing dimly;
and once, where some trick of the tunnel sorted out the sounds, I
caught a scrap of conversation.
"D'you suppose they'll be able to see the shirt?"
"God knows. I can hardly make it out from here."
"When it looks like the right time to you, sir, turn the
flashlight on it."
"All right. God damn! Keep on going--you nearly knocked out
Even over my shoulder, looking backward, I could see practically
nothing, for what little light came in through the opening was
swallowed by the first few yards. There was a suspicion of
paleness in the gloom behind, and the occasional suggestion of an
outline of rough wall; no more.
Nor was the tunnel straight by any means. It turned and twisted
constantly; and at every bend the men who originally closed it
had built up a wall of heavy masonry that Scharnhoff had had to
force his way through. In those places the broken stones were
now lying in the fairway, as you knew by the suffering when you
came in contact with them; some of the split-off edges were as
sharp as glass.
It was good fun, all the same, while it lasted. If we had been
crawling down a sewer, or a modern passage of any kind, the sense
of danger and discomfort would, no doubt, have overwhelmed all
other considerations. But, even supposing Scharnhoff had been on
a vain hunt, and the veritable Tomb of the Kings of Judah did not
lie somewhere in the dark ahead of us, we were nevertheless under
the foundations of Solomon's temple, groping our way into
mysteries that had not been disclosed, perhaps, since the days
when the Queen of Sheba came and paid her homage to the most
wise king. You could feel afraid, but you couldn't wish you
I have no idea how long it took to crawl the length of that black
passage. It seemed like hours. I heard heavy footsteps behind
me after a while. Some one following in a hurry, who could see
no better than we could, kept stumbling over the falling masonry;
and once, when he fell headlong, I heard him swear titanically in
a foreign tongue. I called back to whoever it was to crawl
unless he wanted to be shot, but probably the words were all
mixed up in the tunnel echoes, for he came on as before.
Then all at once Goodenough flashed on the light for a fraction
of a second and the shirt showed like a phantom out of blackness.
The instant answer to that was a regular volley of shots from in
front. The flash of several pistols lit up the tunnel, and
bullets rattled off the walls and roof. The shirt fell, shot
loose from its moorings, and the leading Sikhs gave a shout as
they started to rush forward.
We all surged after them, but there was a sudden check, followed
by a babel worse than when a dozen pi-dogs fight over a rubbish-
heap. You couldn't make head or tail of it, except that
something desperate was happening in front, until suddenly a man
with a knife in his hand, too wild with fear to use it, came
leaping and scrambling over the backs of Sikhs, like a forward
bucking the line. The Sikh in front of me knelt upright and
collared him round the knees. The two went down together, I on
top of both of them with blood running down my arm, for the man
had started to use his knife at last, slashing out at random, and
I rather think that slight cut he gave me saved the Sikh's life.
But you can make any kind of calculation afterwards, about what
took place in absolute darkness, without the least fear of being
proven wrong. And since the Sikh and I agreed on that point no
other opinion matters.
I think that between the two of us we had that man about
nonplused, although we couldn't see. I had his knife, and the
Sikh was kneeling on his stomach, when a hundred and eighty
pounds of bone and muscle catapulted at us from the rear and
sprawled on us headlong, saved by only a miracle from skewering
some one with a bayonet as he fell.
He laughed while he fought, this newcomer, and even asked
questions in the Sikh tongue. He had my arm in a grip like a
vise and wrenched at it until I cursed him. Then he found a leg
in the dark and nearly broke that, only to discover it was the
other Sikh's. Still laughing, as if blindfolded fighting was his
meat and drink, he reached again, and this time his fingers
closed on enemy flesh. Judging by the yells, they hurt, too.
There must have been at least another minute of cat-and-dog-fight
struggling--hands being stepped on and throats clutched--before
Goodenough rolled himself free from an antagonist in front and,
groping for the flashlight, found it and flashed it on. The
first thing I recognized by its light was the face of Narayan
Singh, with wonderful white teeth grinning through his black
beard within six inches of my nose.
"Damn you!" I laughed. "You weigh a ton. Get off--you nearly
"Nearly, in war-time, means a whole new life to lose, sahib. Be
pleased to make the most of it!" he answered.
Within two minutes after that we had eight prisoners disarmed and
subdued, some of them rather the worse for battery. The amazing
thing was that we hadn't a serious casualty among the lot of us.
We could have totaled a square yard of skin, no doubt, and a
bushel of bruises (if that is the way you measure them) but mine
was the only knife-wound. I felt beastly proud.
By the light of the electric torch we dragged and prodded the
prisoners back whence they had come, and presently Grim or
somebody found a lantern and lit it. We found ourselves in a
square cavern--a perfect cube it looked like--about thirty feet
wide each way.
In the midst was a plain stone coffer with its lid removed and
set on end against it. In the coffer lay a tall man's skeleton,
with the chin still bound in linen browned with age. There were
other fragments of linen here and there, but the skeleton's bones
had been disturbed and had fallen more or less apart.
Over in one corner were two large bundles done up in modern gunny-
bags, and Grim went over to examine them.
"Hello!" he said. "Here's Scharnhoff and his lady friend!"
He ripped the lashings of both bundles and disclosed the Austrian
and the woman, gagged and tied, both almost unconscious from
inability to breathe, but not much hurt otherwise.
The Sikhs herded the prisoners, old alligator-eyes among them,
into another corner. Grim tore my shirt into strips to bandage
my arm with. Goodenough talked with Narayan Singh, while we
waited for Scharnhoff to recover full consciousness.
"Those murderers!" he gasped at last. "Schweinehunde!"
"Better spill the beans, old boy," Grim said, smiling down at
him. "You'll hang at the same time they do, if you can't tell a
"Ach! I do not care! There were no manuscripts--nothing! I
don't know whose skeleton that is--some old king David, perhaps;
for that is not David's real tomb that the guides show. Hang
those murderers and I am satisfied!"
"Your story may help hang them. Come on, out with it!"
"Have you caught Noureddin Ali?"
"But I do mind! And you should mind!"
Scharnhoff sat up excitedly. He was dressed in the Arab garments
I had seen in his cupboard that day when Grim and I called on
him, with a scholar's turban that made him look very distinguished
in spite of his disarray.
"That Noureddin Ali is a devil! Together we would look for the
Tomb of the Kings. Together we would smuggle out the manuscripts
--translate them together--publish the result together. He lent
me money. He promised to bring explosives. Oh, he was full of
enthusiasm! It was not until last night, when I had broken that
last obstruction down and discovered nothing but this coffin,
that I learned his real plan. The devil intended all along to
fill this tomb with high explosive and to destroy the mosque above,
with everybody in it! Curse him!"
"Never mind cursing him," said Grim, "tell us the story."
"He sent oranges here, all marked with the labels of a Zionist
colony. When I told him that the explosive would arrive too
late, he said I should use it to smash these walls and find
another tomb. He himself disappeared, and when I questioned
his men they told me the explosive would be brought in hidden
under fruit in baskets. I waited then in the hope of killing
"Hah-hah!" laughed Grim.
"That is true! But they bound me, and later on bound the woman,
and laid us here to be blown up together with the mosque."
Grim turned to Goodenough, who had been listening.
"Do I win the bet, sir?"
"Ten piastoes!" said Goodenough. "Yes. Narayan Singh says
Noureddin Ali was gone by the time they reached the wall."
"Sure, or he'd have brought Noureddin Ali. I've been thinking,
sir. We've one chance left to bag that buzzard. Will you give
me carte blanche?"
"Yes. Go ahead."
Grim crossed the place to the corner where old alligator-eyes
stood herded with the other prisoners.
"Are you guilty?" he demanded.
"No. Guilty of nothing. I came out of curiosity to see what was
"Thought so. Can you hold your tongue? Then go! Get out
Alligator-eyes didn't wait for a second urging, nor stay to
question his good luck, but went off in a shambling hurry.
"You are mad!" exclaimed Scharnhoff. "That man is the next-worst!"
"Grim, are you sure that's wise?" asked Goodenough.
"We can get him any time we want him, sir," Grim answered. "He
lacks Noureddin Ali's gift of slipperiness."
He turned to Narayan Singh.
"Follow that man, but don't let him know he's followed. He'll
show you where Noureddin Ali is. Get him this time!"
"Dead or alive, sahib?"
"All men are equal in the dark."
The first thing Goodenough did after Grim had sent Narayan Singh
off on his deadly mission was to summon the sheikh of the Dome of
the Rock. He himself went to fetch him rather than risk having
the sheikh bring a crowd of witnesses, who would be sure to talk
afterwards. The all-important thing was to conceal the fact that
sacrilege had been committed. But it was also necessary to
establish the fact that Zionists had had no hand in it.
"You see," Grim explained, sitting on the edge of the stone
coffin, "we could hold Jerusalem. But if word of this business
were to spread far and wide, you couldn't hold two or three
hundred million fanatics; and believe me, they'd cut loose!"
"The sheikh must realize that," said I. "What do you bet me
he won't try to black-mail the Administration on the strength
"I'll bet you my job! Watch the old bird. Listen in. He's
downy. He knows a chance when he sees it, and he might try
to cheat you at dominoes. But in a big crisis he's a number
While we waited we tried to get an opinion out of Scharnhoff
about the coffin and the skeleton inside it. But the old fellow
was heart-broken. I think he told the truth when he said he
couldn't explain it.
"What is there to say of it, except that it is very ancient?
There is no decoration. The coffin is beautifully shaped out of
one solid piece of stone, but that is all. The skeleton is that
of an old man, who seems to have been wounded once or twice in
battle. The linen is good, but there is no jewelry; no
ornaments. And it is buried here in a very sacred place, so
probably, it is one of the Jewish kings, or else one of the
prophets. It might be King David--who knows? And what do I
care? It is what a man sets down on parchment, and not his bones
that interest me!"
The sheikh arrived at last, following Goodenough down the dark
passage with the supreme nonchalance of the priest too long
familiar with sacred places to be thrilled or frightened by them.
He stood in the entrance gazing about him, blinking speculatively
through the folds of fat surrounding his bright eyes. Goodenough
took the lantern and held it close to the prisoners' faces one
"You see?" he said. "All Syrians. All Moslems. Not a Jew among
them. I'll take you and show you the others presently."
"What will you do with them?"
"That's for a court to decide. Hang them, most likely. They
were plotting murder."
"They will talk at the trial."
"Behind closed doors!" said Goodenough.
"Ahum!" said the sheikh, stroking his beard. It would not
have been compatible with either his religion or his racial
consciousness not to try to make the utmost of the situation.
"This would be a bad thing for all the Christian governments if
the tale leaked out. Religious places have been desecrated.
There would be inflammation of Moslem prejudices everywhere."
"It would be worse for you!" Grim retorted. The sheikh stared
hard at him, stroking his beard again,
"How so, Jimgrim? Have I had a hand in this?"
"This is your famous Bir-el-Arwah, where, as you tell your
faithful, the souls of the dead come to pray twice a week. This
is the gulf beneath the Rock of Abraham that you tell them
reaches to the middle of the world. Look at it! Shall we
publish flashlight photographs?"
The sheikh's eyes twinkled as he recognized the force of that
argument. He turned it over in his mind for a full minute before
"You cannot be expected to understand spiritual things," he said
at last. "However," looking up, "this is not under the Rock.
This is another place."
Goodenough pulled a compass from his pocket, but Grim shook
"Go on," said Grim. "What of it?"
"It is better to close up this place and say nothing."
"Except this." Goodenough retorted: "you will say at the first
and every succeeding opportunity that you know it is not true
that Zionists tried to blow up the Dome of the Rock."
"How do I know they did not try?"
"Perhaps we'd better ask the Administrator to come and inspect
this place officially and put the exact facts on the record,"
"You understand, don't you?" said Grim.
"Everything we've done until now has been strictly unofficial.
There's a difference."
"And this effendi?" he asked, staring at me. "What of him?"
"He is commended to your special benevolence," Grim answered.
"The way to keep a man like him discreet is to make a friend of
him. Treat him as you do me, then we three shall be friends."
The sheikh nodded, and that proved to be the beginning of a
rather intimate acquaintance with him that stood me in good stead
more than once afterwards. The influence that a man in his
position can exert, if he cares to, is almost beyond the belief
of those who pin their faith to money and mere officialdom.
The prisoners were marched out. All except Scharnhoff and the
woman were confirmed temporarily in the room in which Grim and I
had breakfasted. The woman was taken to the jail until an
American missionary could be found to take charge of her. They
always hand the awkward cases over to Americans, partly because
they have a gift for that sort of thing, but also because, in
case of need, you can blame Americans without much risk of
Goodenough left a guard of Sikhs outside the street entrance, to
keep out all intruders until the sheikh could collect a few
trustworthy masons to seal up the passage again. Grim,
Scharnhoff and I walked quite leisurely to Grim's quarters, where
Grim left the two of us together in the room downstairs while he
changed into uniform.
"What will they do with me?" asked Scharnhoff. He was not far
from collapse. He lay back in the armchair with his mouth open.
I got him some of Grim's whiskey.
"Nothing ungenerous," I said. "If you were going to be hanged
Grim would have told you."
"Do you--do you think he will let me go?"
"Not until he's through with you," said I, "if I'm any judge
"What use can I be to him? My life is not worth a minute's
purchase if Noureddin Ali finds me--he or that other whom they
let go. Oh, what idiots to let Noureddin Ali give them the slip,
and then to turn the second-worst one loose as well! Those
English are all mad. That man Grim has been corrupted by them!"
Grim hardly looked corrupted, rather iron-hard and energetic when
he returned presently in his major's uniform. You could tell the
color of his eyes now; they were blue-gray, and there was a
light in them that should warn the wary not to oppose him unless
a real fight was wanted. His manner was brisk, brusk, striding
over trifles. He nodded to me.
"You sick of this?" he asked me.
"How many times? I want to see it through."
"All right. Your own risk."
He turned on Scharnhoff, standing straight in front of him, with
both arms behind his back.
"Look here. Have you any decency in that body of yours? Do you
want to prove it? Or would you rather hang like a common
scoundrel? Which is it to be?"
"I--I--I--I--do not understand you. What do you mean?"
"Are you game to risk your neck decently or would you rather have
the hangman put you out of pain?"
"I--I was not a conspirator, Major Grim. If I had known what
they intended I would never have lent myself to such a purpose.
I needed money for my excavations--it has been very difficult to
draw on my bank in Vienna. Noureddin Ali represented himself to
me as an enthusiastic antiquarian; and when I spoke of my need
he offered money, as I told you already. I never suspected until
last night that he and Abdul Ali of Damascus are French secret
agents. But last night he boasted to me about Abdul Ali. He
laughed at me. Then he--"
"Yes, yes," Grim interrupted. "Will you play the man now, if I
give you the chance?"
"If you will accord me opportunity, at least I will do my best."
"Understand; you'll not be allowed to live here afterward.
You'll be repatriated to Austria, or wherever you come from.
All you're offered is a chance to clean your slate morally before
"I shall be grateful."
"Will you obey?"
"Absolutely--to the limit of my power, that is to say. I am not
an athlete--not a man of active habits."
"Very well. Listen." Grim turned to me again
"Take Scharnhoff to his house. You know the way. When afternoon
comes, set a table in the garden and let him sit at it. He may
as well read. If nothing happens before dark, take him out a
lamp and some food. He mustn't move away. He'd better change
into his proper clothes first. Your job will be to keep an eye
on him until I come. You'd better keep out of sight as much as
possible, especially after dark. Better watch him through the
window. And, by the way, take this pistol. If Scharnhoff
disobeys you, shoot him."
He turned again on Scharnhoff.
"I hope you're not fooling yourself. I should say the chance is
two or three to one that you'll come out of this alive. If
you're killed, you may flatter yourself that's a mighty sight
cleaner than hanging. If you come out with a whole skin, you
shall leave the country without even going to jail. Time to
I slipped the heavy pistol into my pocket and led the way without
saying a word. Scharnhoff followed me, rather drearily, and we
walked side by side toward the German Colony, he looking exactly
like one of those respectable and devout educated Arabs of the
old style, who teach from commentaries on the Koran. We excited
no comment whatever.
"What will he do? What is his purpose?" Scharnhoff asked me
after a while. "If a man is in danger of death, he likes to know
the reason--the purpose of it."
I had a better than faint glimmering of Grim's purpose, but saw
no necessity to air my views on the subject.
"I'm amused," said I, "at the strictly unofficial status of all
this. You see, I'm no more connected with this administration
than you are. I'm as alien as you. You might say, I'm a
stranger in Jerusalem. Yet, here I am, with a perfectly official
pistol, loaded with official cartridges, under unofficial orders
to shoot you at the first sign of disobedience. And--strictly
unofficially, between you and me--I shan't hesitate to do it!"
He contrived a smile out of the depths of his despondency.
"I wonder--should you shoot me--what they would do to
"Something unofficial," I suggested. "But we'll leave that up to
them. The point is--"
"Oh, don't worry! You shall have no trouble from me." It took a
long time to reach his house, for the poor old chap was suffering
from lack of sleep, and physical weariness, as well as disappointment,
and I had to let him sit down by the wayside once or twice. Being
in hard condition, and not much more than half his age, I had almost
forgotten that I had not slept the night before. Keen curiosity as
to what might happen between now and midnight was keeping me going.
He could hardly drag himself into the house. But a bath, and
some food that I found in the larder restored him considerably.
He helped me carry out the table. He chose a book of Schiller's
poems to take with him, but did not read it; he sat with his
elbows on the table and his back toward the front door, resting
his chin gloomily on both fists. He remained in that attitude
all afternoon, and for all I know slept part of the time.
Between him and the window of the room I sat in were some shrubs
that obscured the view considerably. I could see Scharnhoff
through them easily enough, but I don't think he could see me,
and certainly no one could have seen me from the road. I felt
fairly sure that no one saw me until it began to grow dark and I
carried out the lamp. Even then, it was Scharnhoff who struck
the match and lit it, so that I was in shadow all the time--
It had been fairly easy to keep awake until then, but as the room
grew darker and darker, and nothing happened, the yearning to
fall asleep became actual agony. It was a rather large, square
room, crowded up with a jumble of antiquities. The only real
furniture was the window-seat on which I knelt, and an oblong
table; but even the table was laid on its side to make room for
a battered Roman bust standing on the floor between its legs.
I had left the door of the room wide open, in order to be able to
hear anything that might happen in the house; but the only sound
came from a couple of rats that gnawed and rustled interminably
among the rubbish in the corner.
It must have been nearly eight o'clock, and I believe I had
actually dozed off at last, kneeling in the window, when all at
once it seemed to me that the rats were making a different, and
greater noise than I ever heard rats make. It was pitch-black
dark. I couldn't see my hand in front of me. My first thought
was to glance through the window at Scharnhoff, but something--
intuition, I suppose--made me draw aside from the window instead.
Then, beyond any shadow of a doubt, I heard a man move, and
the hair rose all up the back of my head. I remembered
the pistol, clutched it, and found voice enough for two words:
"Hee-hee!" came the answer from behind the table. "So Major
Jimgrim lied about a broken leg, and thought to trap Noureddin
Ali, did he! Don't move, Major Jimgrim! Don't move! We will
have a little talk before we bid each other good-bye! I cannot
last long in any case, for the cursed Sikhs are after me. I
would rather that you should kill me than those Sikhs should, but
I would like to kill you also. If you move before I give you
leave you are a dead man, Major Jimgrim! Hee-hee! You cannot
see me! Better keep still!"
If it was flattering to be mistaken for Grim in the dark, it was
hardly pleasant in the circumstances. For a moment I was angry.
It flashed across my mind that Grim had planned this. But on
second thought I refused to believe he would deceive me about
Scharnhoff and use me as a decoy without my permission. I
decided to keep still and see what happened.
"Do you think you deserve to live, Major Jimgrim?" Noureddin
Ali's voice went on. I heard him shift his position. He was
probably trying to see my outline against the dark wall in order
to take aim. "You, a foreigner, interfering in the politics of
this land? But for you there would have been an explosion today
that would have liberated all the Moslem world. But for that lie
about a broken leg you would have died a little after ten o'clock
this morning--hee-hee--instead of now! Don't move, Major
Jimgrim! You and I will have a duel presently. There is lots of
time. The Sikhs lost track of me."
I did move. I stooped down close to the floor, so that he might
fire over my head if, as I suspected, he was merely gaining time
in order to take sure aim. I tried to see which end of the table
he was talking from, but he was hidden completely.
"Do you think you should go free, to perpetrate more cowardly
interference, after spoiling that well-laid plan? Hee-hee! You
poor fool! Busy-bodies such as you invariably overreach
themselves. Having tricked me two or three times, you thought,
didn't you? that you could draw me here to kill Scharnhoff, that
poor old sheep. You were careful, weren't you? to let Omar
Mahmoud go, in order that he might tell me how Scharnhoff had
turned witness against us. And the Sikhs followed Omar Mahmoud,
until Omar Mahmoud found me. And then they hunted me. Hee-hee!
Don't move! Was that the plan? Simultaneously then, being
yourself only a fool after all, you flatter me and underestimate
my intelligence. Hee-hee!
"You were right in thinking I would not submit to capture and
death without first wreaking vengeance. But vengeance on such a
sheep as Scharnhoff? With Major Jimgrim still alive? What
possessed you? Were you mad? I satisfied myself an hour ago
that Scharnhoff was the bait, which the redoubtable Major Jimgrim
would be watching. Perhaps I shall deal with Scharnhoff
afterwards--hee-hee!--who knows? Now--now shall we fight that
duel? Are you ready?"
I supposed that meant that he could not see me and had given up
hope of it. He would like to have me move first, so as to judge
my exact whereabouts by sound. I reached out very cautiously,
and rapped the muzzle of my pistol on the floor twice.
He fired instantly, three shots in succession. The bullets went
wild to my left and brought down showers of plaster from the
wall. I feared he might have seen me by the pistol-flash. I did
not fire back. There was no need. Something moved swiftly like
a black ghost through the open door. There was a thud--and the
ring of a steel swivel--and a scream.
"Has the sahib a match?" said a gruff voice that I thought
I was trembling--excitement, of course--only children and women
and foreigners ever feel afraid! It took me half a minute to
find the match box, and the other half to strike a light.
Narayan Singh was standing by the end of the table. He was
wiping blood off his bayonet with a piece of newspaper. He
looked cool enough to have carried the paper in his pocket for
that purpose. I got up, feeling ashamed to be seen crouching on
the floor. But Narayan Singh smiled approval.
"You did well, sahib. All men are equal in the dark. Until he
fired first there was nothing wise to do but hide."
"How long have you been here?" I asked.
"Five minutes. I only waited for a sure thrust. But hah? the
sahib feels like a dead man come to life again, eh? Well I know
The match burned my fingers. I struck another. As I did that
Grim stood in the doorway, smiling.
"Is he dead?" he asked.
"Surely, sahib. Shall I go now and get that other one--that
"No need," said Grim. "They rounded him up five minutes after he
had found Noureddin."
"Then have I done all that was required of me?"
"No, Narayan Singh. You haven't shaken hands with me yet."
"Thank you, Jimgrim."
The match went out. I struck a third one. Grim turned to me.
"Oh, to hell with sleep! Let's bring old Scharnhoff into the
other room, dig out some eats and drinks, and get a story from
him. All right, Narayan Singh; there'll be a guard here in
ten minutes to take charge of that body. After that, dismiss.
I'll report you to Colonel Goodenough for being a damned
"My colonel sahib knew that years ago," the great Sikh answered