Other scissors in trees around ceased at the high words.
Then, in the silence that followed them â€” click, click,
click, they began again.
" I will go with a glad heart, for it has long been on
my soul that I was taking thy wages. Now I speak as
man to free man."
He descended slowly, then cast down his tools and
stood close against Ben Hassan. There was a disparity
almost ludicrous in their sizes. But the infidel stood
stiffly and showed no fear.
" You speak of the old man, the grey-bearded father
of Nuzhat. Shall a parent dictate to a maid that loves ?
Know, then, that she worships me and the nightingale
in my throat more than all your fatness. She would
rather tramp the sands and live under the hide of a
192 THE FOLK AFIELD
beast with me than press the softest pillow in your
Ben Hassan allowed himself great freedom of speech
when anger shook his massive frame.
" Be gone, and may your name rot, godless dog !
Haste away, and heed your actions ; for power is power,
and did you vanish to feed fish or breed worms under
the green grass, Jaffa would ask no question, knowing
herself the richer. Hide as you will, you shall not
escape from the eyes and ears that I pay to watch and
" Great words hurt no more than the thunder, that
can only turn milk sour for all its noise. You are a
boy â€” a big, blustering boy who has yet to feel the
sting of Fate's whip. Cry for the moon, Ben Hassan ;
you will win that sooner than my Nuzhat ! "
" By Allah, you are brave, having nothing to lose !
Get hence, Armenian fox, or I will set the dogs upon
thee ! "
" I go. Her father and her mother are upon your -^
side. She is on mine. And God is over all. Farewell."
He departed through the crowd at the gate, through |
the din and dazzle, the blaze of heat, the sharp scent of
rotten fruit, and the hot smell of many camels that
squatted among the orange-boxes and bubbled with
angry protests as their loads increased upon them.
AMR SHADID dwelt somewhere within the un-
I savoury precincts of Jaffa Wharf, and now, return-
ing thither by way of the bazaars, his eye fell where his
thoughts were busy, and he saw Nuzhat Luluah beside
a stall, purchasing the red earthen boles that surmount a
hookah. Her slim shape was clad in dark garment of
blue cloth ; her head was hidden, and only her eyes peered
above hex yashmak ; but in them was a fire, and her olive
skin brightened as the blood leaped to her cheek at
sight of her lover. Nuzhat's little mind, like her pretty
body, was budding towards ripeness, Jamr Shadid
had whispered a new philosophy beyond the Moslem's.
She burnt in spirit to think that fathers and brothers
had power to sell women to the highest bidder ; and the
Armenian, to gain his own ends and win her, had painted
his creed a fair thing, his Prophet one whose hand was
ever stretched to the weak. Nuzhat clutched at these
whisperings of other ways. She poured out her young
love on the rascal with the sweet voice, and, quickened
by desire for him, a mind between two stools of faith,
fell into dark ways and welcomed deceit and lying. Yet
she ever prayed at dawn and dusk little prayers in the
name of both prophets â€” now to Christ, now to the
Nuzhat lowered her silk shawl for half a second, and
one small hand with a silver ring on it peeped like a
brown mouse from her side, touched Jamr Shadid and
disappeared. A moment later she met him out of the
glare of the bazaar, in black shadows at the confines of
194 THE FOLK AFIELD
the quarters of the brass-workers. He had beckoned her
there without speaking, and so passed on. Now, hidden
from the eye of Jew and Gentile, and despite the clink
and clatter of the smiths, he found time to tell her of
all that had just befallen him ; and she mourned and
laid before him her own evil news.
" Unhappy am I," she said ; " would I were yonder
beggar-woman from Bethlehem, for she has a man's
whole love, and so is rich as the world can make her.
In a week they will give me to Ben Hassan. Not an
hour ago I passed his two wives taking the air in a great
carriage with horses, and I grow old to think of what is
" It must not be. I have waited for this. Say only
again you love me, and leave the future to me."
" How well you know it ! My ' Live Coal ' has
burnt my heart."
" Last night," said Jamr, inventing his romance as
he proceeded with Oriental ease in spinning of story,
" Christ, my Master, came to me, even as aforetime He
came to Simon the Tanner, whose habitation still stands
here, by the well and fig-tree above the sea. To me
He came and spoke and said, 'Jamr Shadid ' â€” for by
that name He called me â€” ' Jamr Shadid, arise and get
thee out of Jaffa with her whom thou lovest : Nuzhat,
the lamp of a house in darkness. Take ship and hasten
to Beyrout by night. To-morrow thy master shall spite-
fully use thee, and thy time in Jaffa is ended.' Even so
He spoke, and thus far it has come about."
" He is a live Prophet who can thus think of the
humble and stretch His kind hand even to me who am
not signed with His seal."
Fear not. You too shall be a Christian," declared
Jamr Shadid with authority. " Meet me here at noon
to-morrow by the stall of Hafiz, the fruit-seller. He
knows me and we have had dealings together. Then
will I say all that is in my mind, for it may be that I
shall see the Lord in a vision yet again. We must keep
secret and use speed."
" It is thy Prophet's good will that I leave father
and brother, sister and mother for thee ? "
" Who can doubt .'' He has set it down. But we
must be cunning and help ourselves. Even God can-
not guide the blind if he refuse to use his feet. To-
morrow â€” till then."
So the two parted : Jamr Shadid to build another
lie on the foundations of that he had told ; Nuzhat full of
much desire towards the Prophet of the Christians.
Her eyes shone with trust and with love ; there
was in her heart a wordless, soundless song of thanks-
giving. Once she stopped and gave a wailing beggar-
child a piastre. Then, her homeward road lying by the
reputed tomb of Tabitha, she stood a moment, hesitated
Lights burnt on the altar, votive offerings of paper
roses and rubbish littered the little shrine. Cool shadows
dwelt there, and a great patch of sunshine filled the
portal with living gold.
" She was a good woman and has done great miracles
even in death," thought Nuzhat, and she knelt and
prayed upon the stones beneath which legends declare
that industrious Dorcas sleeps. A vague petition from
a young heart ascended â€” a petition and a thanksgiving.
Then she arose and slipped past the wall where the black
lizards dwell, and so, moving under naked fig-trees, she
hastened to her home.
ON that same night came Ben Hassan to smoke and
speak of money with Abu Luluah ; and Nuzhat
served them, and set the charcoal to their nargilehs, and
put water and coffee before them, and a dainty dish of
rice which she herself had dressed in honey and saffron.
She ordered her words with discretion, and the cunning
of her love led her along a safe path. When he found
that the little maid offered no more objections, and was
willing to come to him and be his wife, Ben Hassan
blessed Allah ; and Nuzhat's father, striking while yet
the iron was white-hot, desired the girl to depart that
matters of money might be discussed in peace.
" As you are happy, so widen the mouth of the
money-bag, that Allah may know you value His bless-
ings," said Abu Luluah â€” himself a man of slow fingers
with his purse-strings.
" Fear not," answered the happy lover, " but first
let me hear my little bird's voice before she departs.
Let me know that she forgets the infidel, that, unworthy
though I am, she comes with a whole heart to my
" Think not," she said, treading amidst lies like a
cat on thorns, " that I hold anything common between
you and Jamr Shadid. He was a stranger in a strange
land, and his voice set my heart beating, but a voice is
the gift of God."
" Dog-begotten unbeliever ! And not even the
Christian he pretends to be, for he is in outer darkness
without even a twinkle of light from any prophet's
candle. He has no God but his own vile body," blazed
" Forget him as you are wise, Ben Hassan. He
met me in the bazaar at noon and touched me â€” start
not ! â€” and told me that you had set a watch on his
" It is true. Men mark the movement of beasts by
their track, of serpents by their road in the sand. So
we put our hands upon them in their secure hour and
surprise them that they do no hurt,"
" Yet I marvelled that such an one as Ben Hassan
feared Jamr Shadid. Forget him as though he did not
live. Let it pass from your mind that he breathes the
same air with you and walks above the earth."
" Nuzhat says well," declared Abu Luluah in all
innocence. " Forget the wretch ; he is but a grain of
the blight wafted upon ill winds into Syria. I curse
the Turks when I rise and when I sleep. They are the
outcasts of the earth, and we have been delivered into
their hands for the sins of our forefathers. But who
can read the riddles of Allah ? "
" He is an Armenian, not a Turk," said Ben
" It is one. He is scum of scum : what the pig
leaves on the dunghill : what the vulture hops past in
the gutter. The gorge of the Earth rises against the
Turk ; his gorge rises upon Armenia."
" I will forget him as though he had never been
born," quoth Ben Hassan ; " my mind is too full of
new-born joy to harbour any base thing. Every fair
woman is good ; but a woman who comes with open
arms shall be above rubies."
198 THE FOLK AFIELD
Nuzhat withdrew, and while she wept long in secret
and prayed to the God of Truth to blot her deceit from
the Book, her parent, upon Ben Hassan's departure,
also addressed the throne and thanked Allah that,
witched by a slim girl's shape, by red lips and a voice
that trembled like bells heard afar off, Ben Hassan's
heart had proved bigger than his head.
Abu went to his wife, and when she heard his saying,
she kissed him on the beard and was glad.
" For every woman heaven sends to earth, there is
a man ready to risk Gehenna," said she. " That woman
and that man but seldom meet ; but if Allah wills it so
and the man be of good fortune, then somebody is the
" I would now that I had seemed less content with
his gifts. Surely of all ways by which a believer may
walk uprightly under God, and please the world, and
put honest money into his purse, the getting of fair
daughters is the best."
" Beauty is the seldom gift of Allah," answered his
wife, herself turned of forty, and long a stranger to
" 'Tis rare in Syrian women."
"As rare as brains in Syrian men."
" What treason is this ? "
" Nay, prate not of head-pieces upon our great
ones while the land groans under the whip of the Otto-
man, while no man's own is sacred, while bread is stolen
from the lips of the hungry."
" That brings to my thought words I had intended
to speak. Let not a living soul know of this little
shower of yellow metal that has beaten upon us. The
cursed thieves and knaves set over Syria by their more
cursed master have an eye to every orange that falls,
and the press squeezes not the olive as they our
" My lips have long learnt to shut tightly on a gold
piece," she answered.
Now, whilst Ben Hassan thanked kindly Providence
for his fortune in love, he by no means followed
little Nuzhat's suggestion in one particular. He was of
a mind with Caliph Omar, who says, concerning the
counsel of women, " Consult them and do contrariwise."
Therefore he set the threatened watch on Jamr Shadid,
knowing that no man is so humble but he has power
to do another evil.
The spy set against Jamr Shadid was a Syrian of
strange aspect, dwarfed in body and dumb of tongue.
But the deformed creature's other senses had quickened
at the loss of one, and by reason of his small size,
agility and cunning, he sometimes rendered good service
to greater than himself in dark matters. Because his
tongue was tied, there grew a rumour that he heard not
also ; and, while far from fact, the report was yet
fostered by Afridun for his own ends. He simulated
this further affliction, and so, under cover of a wrong
impression, heard much more than his neighbours
fancied. Of mean aspect, he habitually clad himself in
such jackal colours as might slink at men's elbows with-
out note, and his eyes squinted so that no one could
say he was looking at him. Jaffa pitied him and held
So it happened that when Jamr Shadid met Nuzhat
at the appointed time beside the stall of Hafiz, the
fruit-seller, Afridun stood beside them with his back
turned, and bargained for pods of red pepper, while his
ears, peeping through grizzled hair under a dirty white
fez, sucked up the words whispered behind him.
" I am here. The day is at hand, but I know that
you have not come without ripe thoughts," said the
" I met Ben Hassan but now," he answered incon-
sequently, " and I bowed myself before him ; but his
eye turned from me, and his lips curled like a camel's,"
" Why do obeisance now .-' "
" If you cannot bite the hand that strikes you, kiss
" But what of the future ? Only four short days
separate me from him. I wait for you to speak. Has
no further message reached you ? "
" None that is clear," he said ; " but, nevertheless, I
see the road. To-morrow you shall hear all is left to say.
Meet me beside the Yellow Tower at dusk. There I
shall tell you what is too secret for this place."
"I will be there."
Afridun beckoned to an acquaintance and hastened
away as Nuzhat spoke. The little stunted creature de-
bated in his snake's head whether he should reveal this
much to Ben Hassan ; but he determined to say nothing
until the following night. In this conclusion he erred,
as Fate afterwards revealed to him ; but he was at the
Yellow Tower long before the lovers reached it, and
fortune smiled upon the first steps of his treacherous
Two miles from Jaffa, upon the shore of the sea,
stood the Yellow Tower. Once a strong rock of
defence, raised by Crusaders in the Middle Ages, it
was now grown old and shattered. Lightnings had
thrust their awful fingers between its stones ; the
cannon-fire of the French had battered its seaward
face ; it had witnessed the shedding of blood and fallen
to many conquerors. But to-day it slept in peace,
while hyssop blossomed from many broken embrasures,
and amid its secret places the raven brought up her
young. A figure of utmost loneliness brooding upon a
fiery past, stood the Yellow Tower ; and when day sank
into the sea and the great waters of the Mediterranean
burnt with sunset fires, its jagged shadow first fell upon
the tamarisks and the flowers of the field that lived on
the edge of the sand, then extended where white irises
clustered thick among ancient Moslem tombs and thrust
their roots between the slanting stones that covered a
sleeping generation. The spot was desolate, and of
sinister repute, for the spirits of bad men howled around
it by night ; and once, within living memory, a woman
of Jaffa had there been found in Death's hold, with a
vampire-mark beneath her left breast.
But hither, fearing nothing, came Nuzhat to meet
Jamr Shadid, and the gloaming being sad-coloured, with
a cold rain off the sea, they entered the lowermost
chamber of the Yellow Tower (by a hole in the wall)
and there stood on dry ground in dry air. This action
Afridun had clearly foreseen, and now, within a yard or
two of them, he lay, hidden like a scorpion under a
litter of dead brushwood, stone and leaves.
There was heard no sound awhile save the coo of
Nuzhat's soft voice and a catch of breath that showed
the tears were near her eyelids ; then the man spoke
and Afridun pricked his ears.
" Fear not, my little Delight," he said. " Love
deserts no true man, and our way, if difficult, is clear
and admits of little doubt. The day after to-morrow
sees the big steamer of the French in Jaffa. It will
depart again before midnight for Beyrout and the
Northern ports beyond ; and we will depart with it.
Meet me then at the wharf from whence soap and
sesame are carried to the ships. The weather promises
a calm sea, and Hafiz will be with me in the boat to
bring it back. Creep thither by dark ways, and robe
in plain white so that under the moonless darkness you
will not be hidden.
Nuzhat repeated his directions that no possibility of
error might defeat their action ; then she lifted up her
voice and praised the genius capable of conceiving such
" Heaven also is on our side," she said, "and God
will smooth the great seas that roll over the rock-ledges
between Jaffa and the deep."
It was at the moment of this prediction that
Afridun felt the cold crawling of a snake or lizard
against the skin of his thigh, and, starting wildly, he
forgot all else save the horror and danger of the reptile.
But the thing had legs and was harmless ; so he flung
it from him, and rose and stood on his feet, knowing
204 THE FOLK AFIELD
" It is Afridun ! " cried Nuzhat, " the servant of
" Ah ! the same hunchbacked dog that has sniffed
about me too often of late days," declared Jamr Shadid
coldly. "You see now how the God I worship can
save His own from the spy and the traitor who work in
Afridun saw the " Live Coal " bring forth a crooked
Dervish knife that drew down light upon it from the
grey gloaming. He fell on his knees and lied quickly
with his shaking fingers. But the Armenian knew not
the language of a dumb man's hand.
" God shall deal with thee hereafter as thou de-
servest," he said. " Shake your claws from the smoke
of Gehenna, and the God of all will see and answer.
But the Valley of Death lies first."
So saying, he moved to the shaking dwarf; but
Nuzhat stopped him.
" Slay him not, best of sweet-voiced men, else over
our future bliss a red cloud must ever throw red
shadow. Here he is safe as though he lived not.
Bind him close and leave him to Heaven. If he is
guilty, none but Death shall find him within these
walls ; if innocent, a miracle will be performed."
Jamr Shadid grinned at the girl's simplicity, but he
did as she bade him, sheathed his knife again, and,
winding his turban from off his fez, he handled the
stuff as a rope and bound Afridun hand and foot with
many a twist and coil and knot. He covered his eyes
also, and left the spy in darkness, that his position
might be the more horrible. But his mouth he left
Nuzhat, who pitied the gasping wretch, now con-
signed to almost certain death within the lonely ruin, had
begged for him this last boon.
" He is dumb," she said, " and the noise of his
voice, if he raised it, is but the noise of a beast."
" Or worse," answered Jamr Shadid. " The grue-
some sounds of a dumb man would fright the devil.
Let him lift a cry if it pleases him. He who hears
will but call on Allah and the Prophet to guard all
those he loves from jann, and ifrit, and the Thing that
burrows in men's graves."
So they departed ; and night came black along the
lonely shore ; and no ear save a wild beast's pricked at
the sound of faint bowlings from the Yellow Tower.
But a jackal heard, and the hair bristled along his back
as he raised his snout and made answer.
Now Providence, that raises fair suns upon days
destined to be foul, and ushers in golden hours
with black clouds ; that delights to link prosperous be-
ginnings with miserable endings, and builds notable
achievements and successes upon foundations of misery
â€” Providence, having thus far smiled upon Nuzhat
Luluah and her lover, now heeded the slave, Afridun,
and released that spy and tale-bearer from his terrible
danger while yet life was in him. Four-and-twenty
hours after his feet and hands were first bound with
Jamr Shadid's turban, an inquiring Italian, who had
come by the big steamer now anchored off Jaffa,
wandered upon the shore with his dragoman.
Seeing the Yellow Tower before him, he approached
it, while the Syrian at his elbow repeated those unholy
narratives proper to the place.
Thus was Afridun liberated by the miracle Nuzhat
had foretold, and scarce stopping to thank Allah or His
instruments in shape of men, the slave sped away as
fast as his sorely cramped limbs and bruised and
hungry carcase would carry him. In an hour and a
half he had reached the orange-grower's dwelling ; and
at the moment when the dwarf's information dropped
from shaking fingers before Ben Hassan, the lovers had
already set forth under darkness to their rendezvous at
the sesame quay. Here Hafiz, Jamr Shadid's friend,
awaited them in an open boat ; and he grew impatient
when a bellow from the sea told how the great steam-
ship lying there was at the point of departure.
" When Allah wills His servant well, He opens, of
all those portals which lock in man, the gate of Action."
Thus spake Ben Hassan, and mounting a camel, he
passed with the speed of thought through twinkling
Jaffa, and down to the deserted darkness of the shore.
From Afridun he had learnt every particular of the
enterprise which was to rob him of Nuzhat, and now,
nothing doubting but that the runaways must already
be upon the departing steamer, he lifted his voice and
called men to him, and offered them a rich bribe if they
would but row him to the vessel before she lifted her
anchors and sailed away.
Two watermen answered the call, and very soon
Ben Hassan floated with straining eyes to the open sea.
The boat was dangerously small and light for that coast,
but the men in her feared nothing. Long and ugly
rollers are wont to tumble upon the rocky ledges that,
like a bared dragon's teeth, guard the landing-place of
Jaffa. To-night, however, the opening in the rocks
through which boats and cargo-lighters pass out to the
ships was almost at peace, and a strong oar, with ex-
perience, feared not to face the danger which lies there
even at moments when the sea sleeps. Even then the
rise and fall of the Mediterranean's bosom, as the rise
and fall of a giant's breathing, brings some peril to the
small vessel, and spells danger to all but skilled pilots
Though he knew it not, Ben Hassan had put forth
but two short minutes after Jamr Shad id, and now the
smaller boat, very quickly rowed, was fast approaching
that other which held Nuzhat. The rocky inlet was still
ahead, when, straining his eyes and ears into misty
future, Ben Hassan heard a sound of oars and saw the
208 THE FOLK AFIELD
shadow of a white figure, as it had been a ghost upon
Then he remembered the word of Afridun, that
Nuzhat would be clothed in white, and his judgment
left him, and he shrieked across the water, inflamed
with rage at the fitful glimmer of the white form
" It is I, Ben Hassan ! Cease rowing, Jamr Shadid,
or may God blacken thy face, thou traitor, and give
thee thy deserved portion ! "
He heard a woman's cry, and saw the white figure
move violently. Then he bid his rowers redouble their
efforts. It mattered little now whether the fugitives
reached the ship before him, because once aboard with
them, Ben Hassan, as a man of substance, would be
listened to and obeyed ; but under the darkness of night
and the passion of pursuit, anger consumed him and he
lived in the moment, only longing to hear his boat's
prow crash upon the side of the other. This, indeed,
happened at the point of greatest danger, and pursuer
struck against pursued in the narrow mouth of the
inner bay, where great slow rollers lifted both like little
cups, and where a dance and flicker of phosphorescent
light gleamed along the lips of black rocks within a few
short yards on either side.
Then it came about that Fate, weary of this problem,
unravelled the tangle of those three lives with impatient
shears. An oar broke in Jamr Shadid's vessel as the
other struck her ; and the roll from the sea had the
dismantled craft broadside on in a moment. As she
came round she carried the other boat with her, and at
this moment, dead to present danger, Ben Hassan
started up from where he sat in the stern, and his
action hastened what the next wave must have accom-
plished â€” the smaller boat capsized : and before Shadid