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voices that can carry on conversation in a boiler foundry.

"There's more in this than meets the eye! She's not a nurse. She don't
walk like a missionary. I heard her buy a ticket for Aleppo. Can you
imagine a lone, good-looking woman going to Aleppo by that train unless
she had a laissez passe from the French? She's wearing French heels.
I'll bet she's carrying secret information. Look! D'you see those two
Arabs in the train?" He pointed out Grim and Jeremy, who were leaning
from a window. "They tipped her off to get into the compartment next
ahead of them. D'you see? There she goes. She was for getting into
the coach ahead. They called her back."

Almost all the other cars were empty except that one, but, whether
because humans are like sheep and herd together instinctively when
afraid, or because the train crew ordered it, all six compartments of
the middle first-class car were now occupied, with Mabel Ticknor alone
in the front one. Nevertheless, Yussuf Dakmar and four of his companions
started to climb in by the rear door. The sixth man lingered within
earshot of the officers, presumably to pick up further suggestions.

So I got in at the front end and met them halfway down the corridor.

"Plenty of room in the car behind," I said abruptly.

They were five to one, but Yussuf Dakmar was in front, and he merely got
in the way of the wolves behind him. The sixth man, who had lingered
near the officers, now entered by the front end as I had done and called
out that there was plenty of room in the front compartment.

"There's only a woman in here," he said in Arabic.

And he set the example by taking the seat opposite to Mabel.

It would have been easy enough to get him out again, of course. Not even
the polyglot train crew would have allowed Arabs to trespass without her
invitation.

The trouble was that Jeremy, Grim, Narayan Singh and I all rushed to her
rescue at the same minute, which let the cat out of the bag. It was
Doctor Ticknor's statement in Jerusalem about not wanting to see any of
us alive again if we failed to bring his wife back safe that turned the
trick and caused even Grim to lose his head for a moment. When a Sikh,
two obvious Arabs and an American all rush to a woman's assistance
before she calls for help, there is evidence of collusion somewhere
which you could hardly expect a trained spy to overlook or fail to draw
conclusions from.

It was all over in a minute. The rascal left the compartment, muttering
to himself in Arabic sotto voce. I caught one word; but he looked so
diabolically pleased with himself that it didn't really need that to
stir me into action. I take twelves in boots, with a rather broad toe,
and he stopped the full heft of the hardest kick I could let loose. It
put him out of action for half a day, and remains one of my pleasantest
memories.

His companions had to gather him up and help him pulley-hauley fashion
into the car ahead, while an officious ticket-taker demanded my name and
address. I found in my wallet the card of a U.S. senator and gave him
that, whereat he apologized profoundly and addressed me as "Colonel" - a
title with which he continued to flatter me all the rest of the journey
except once, when he changed it to "Admiral" by mistake.

Grim went back into our compartment and laughed; and none of the essays
I have read on laughter - not even the famous dissertation by Josh
Billings - throw light on how to describe the tantalizing manner of it.
He laughs several different ways: heartily at times, as men of my
temperament mostly do; boisterously on occasion, after Jeremy's
fashion; now and then cryptically, using laughter as a mask; then he
owns a smile that suggests nothing more nor less than kindness based on
understanding of human nature.

But that other is a devil of a laugh, mostly made of chuckles that seem
to bubble off a Hell-brew of disillusionment, and you get the impression
that he is laughing at himself - cynically laying bare the vanity and
fallibility of his own mental processes - and forecasting
self-discipline.

There is no mirth in it, although there is amusement; no anger,
although immeasurable scorn. I should say it's a good safe laugh to
indulge in, for I think it is based on ability to see himself and his
own mistakes more clearly than anybody else can, and there is no note of
defeat in it. But it is full of a cruel irony that brings to mind a
vision of one of those old medieval flagellant priests reviewing his
sins before thrashing his own body with a wire whip.

"So that ends that," he said at last, with the gesture of a man who
sweeps the pieces from a board, to set them up anew and start again.
"Luckily we're not the only fools in Asia. Those six rascals know now
that Mabel and we are one party."

"Pooh!" sneered Jeremy. "What can the devils do?"

"Not much this side of the border at Deraa," Grim answered. "After Deraa
pretty well what they're minded. They could have us pinched on some
trumped-up charge, in which case we'd be searched, Mabel included. No.
We've played too long on the defensive. Deraa is the danger-point. The
telegraph line is cut there, and all messages going north or south have
to be carried by hand across the border. The French have an agent there
who censors everything. He's the boy we've got to fool. If they appeal
to him this train will go on without us.

"Ramsden, you and Narayan Singh go and sit with Mabel in her
compartment. Jeremy, you go forward and bring Yussuf Dakmar back here
to me; we'll let him have that fake letter just before we reach Deraa,
taking care somehow to let the other five know he has it. They won't
discover it's a fake until after leaving Deraa - "

"Why not?" I interrupted. "What's to prevent their opening it at once?"


"Two good reasons: for one, we'll have Narayan Singh keep a careful eye
on them, and they'll keep it hidden as long as he snoops around; for
another, they'll be delighted not to have to let the French agent at
Deraa into the secret, because of the higher price they hope to get by
holding on. They'll smuggle it over the border and not open it until
they feel safe."

"Yes, but when they do look at it ..." said I.

"We'll be over the border, and they can't send telegrams to anywhere."

"Why not?"

"An Arab government precaution. If station agents all along the line
were allowed to send telegrams every seditious upstart would take
advantage of it and they'd have more trouble than they've got now. But
I warn you fellows, after Deraa - somewhere between the border and
Damascus - there'll be a fight. The minute they discover that the letter
is a fake they'll come for the real one like cats after a canary."

"Let 'em come!" smiled Jeremy, but Grim shook his head. "I've been
making that mistake too long," he answered. "No defensive tactics after
we leave Deraa! We'll start the trouble ourselves. You watch, after
Deraa the train crew will play cards in the caboose and leave Allah to
care for the passengers."

"There's only one thing troubles me," said Jeremy.

"What's that?"

"Narayan Singh got Yussuf Dakmar's shirt night before last. I've had it
in for Yussuf ever since we Anzacs went hungry on account of him.
Anyone who scuppers him has got me to beat to him. He's my meat, and I
give you all notice!"

It isn't good to stand between an Anzac and the punishment he thinks an
enemy deserves.

"All the same," Grim answered, smiling, "I'll bet you don't get him,
Jeremy."

"I'll bet you. How much?"

"Mind you, when the game begins, you have a free hand," Grim went on.

"All right," answered Jeremy, who loves freak bets, ''if I get him you
quit the Army soon as this job's done, and join up with Rammy and me:
if I don't I'll stay and help you on the next job."

"That's a bet," said Grim promptly.

So Jeremy went forward to play at being traitor, while Narayan Singh and
I kept Mabel company. She fired questions at us right and left for
twenty minutes, which we had to answer in detail instead of straining
our cars to catch what Grim and Jeremy might be saying to Yussuf Dakmar
in the next compartment.

Whatever they did say, they managed to prolong the interview until
within ten minutes of Deraa, when the Syrian returned to his companions
smiling smugly and Narayan Singh strode after him, to stand in the
corridor and by ostentatiously watching them prevent their examining the
letter.

Grim and Jeremy, all grins, joined us at once in Mabel's compartment.

"Did you see the devil smirk as he went off with it?" asked Jeremy.
"Golly, he thinks we're fools! The theory is that we two had betrayed
you, Rammy, and swapped the letter against his bare promise to pay us in
Damascus. He chucked in a little blackmail about sicking his mates on
to murder us if we didn't come across, and I tell you we fairly love
him! Lordy, here's Deraa! If they open the thing before the train
leaves, Grim says the lot of us are to bolt back across the border, send
Mabel home to her husband, and continue the journey by camel. That
right, Grim?"

Grim nodded. It was Mabel who objected.

"I'm going to see this through," she answered. "Guess again, boys! My
hair's gone gray. You owe me a real adventure now, and I won't give up
the letter till you've paid!"

We had one first-class scare when the train drew up in the squalid
station, where the branch line to Haifa meets the main Hedjaz railway
and the two together touch a mean town at a tangent; for a French
officer in uniform boarded the train and stalked down the corridors
staring hard at everyone. He asked me for a passport, which was sheer
bluff, so I asked him in turn for his own authority. He smiled and
produced a rubber stamp, saying that if I wished to visit Beirut or
Aleppo I must get a vise from him.

"Je m'em bien garderai!" I answered. "I'm going to see my aunt at
Damascus."

"And this lady? Is she your wife?"

I laughed aloud - couldn't help it. All the Old Testament stories keep
forcing themselves on your memory in that land, and the legend of
Abraham trying to pass his wife off as his sister and the three-cornered
drama that came of it cropped up as fresh as yesterday. There was no
need that I could see to repeat the patriarch's mistake, any more than
there was reasonable basis for the Frenchman's impertinence.

"Is that your business?" I asked him.

"Because," he went on, smiling meanly, "you speak with an American
accent. It is against the law to carry gold across the border, and
Americans have to submit to personal search, because they always carry
it."

"Show me your authority!" I retorted angrily.

"Oh, as for that, there is a customs official here who has full
authority. He is a Syrian. It occurred to me that you might prefer to
be searched by a European."

"Call his bluff!" Grim whispered behind his sleeve, but I intended to do
that, anyway.

"Bring along your Syrian," said I, and off he went to do it, treating me
to a backward glance over his shoulder that conveyed more than words
could have done.

"He'll bluff sky-high," said Grim, "but keep on calling him."

"I've been searched at six frontiers," said Mabel. "If it's a Syrian I
don't much mind; you boys all come along, and he'll behave himself.
They're much worse in France and Italy. Hadn't one of you better take
the letter, though? No! I was forgetting already! I won't part with
it. I'll take my chance with the Syrian; he'll only ask me to empty my
pockets and prove that I haven't a bag full of gold under my skirt. Sit
tight, all, here he comes!"

The Frenchman returned with a smiling, olive-complexioned Syrian in tow
- a round-faced fellow with blue jaws as dark as his serge uniform. The
Frenchman stood aside and the Syrian announced rather awkwardly that
regulations compelled him to submit Mabel and me to the inconvenience of
search.

"For what?" said I.

"For gold," he answered. "It is against the law to smuggle it across
the border."

"I've only one gold coin," I said, showing him a U.S. twenty-dollar
piece, and his yellow eyes shone at sight of it. "If it will save
trouble you may have it."

I put it into his open palm with the Frenchman looking on, and it was
immediately clear that that particular Syrian official was no longer
amenable to international intrigue. He was bought and sold - oozy with
gratitude - incapable of anything but wild enthusiasm for the U.S.A. for
several hours to come.

"I have searched them!" said he to the French officer. "They have no
gold, and they are all right."

The French have faults like the rest of us, but they are quicker than
most men to recognize logic. The man with crimson pants and sabre
grinned cynically, shrugged his shoulders, and passed on to annoy
somebody easier.




CHAPTER XII

"Start something before they're ready for it!"


Just before the train started, a handsome fellow with short black beard
trimmed into a point and wearing a well-cut European blue serge suit,
but none the less obviously an Arab, came to the door of our compartment
and stared steadily at Grim. He stood like a fighting man, as if every
muscle of his body was under command, and the suggestion was
strengthened by what might be a bullet scar over one eye.

If that fellow had asked me for a loan on the spot, or for help against
his enemies, he would have received both or either. Moreover, if he had
never paid me back I would still believe in him, and would bet on him
again.

However, after one swift glance at him, Grim took no notice until the
train was under way - not even then in fact, until the man in blue serge
spoke first.

"Oh, Jimgrim!" he said suddenly in a voice like a tenor bell.

"Come in, Hadad," Grim answered, hardly glancing at him. "Make yourself
at home."

He tossed a valise into the rack, and I gave up the corner seat so that
he might sit facing Grim, he acknowledging the courtesy with a smile
like the whicker of a sword-blade, wasting no time on foolish protest.
He knew what he wanted - knew enough to take it when invited - understood
me, and expected me to understand him - a first-class fellow. He sat
leaning a little forward, his back not touching the cushion, with the
palms of both hands resting on his knees and strong fingers motionless.
He eyed Mabel Ticknor, not exactly nervously but with caution.

"Any news?" asked Grim.

"Jimgrim, the world is full of it!" he answered in English with a laugh.
"But who are these?"

"My friends."

"Your intimate friends?" Grim nodded.

"The lady as well?" Grim nodded again.

"That is very strong recommendation, Jimgrim!"

Grim introduced us, giving Jeremy's name as Jmil Ras.

"Hah! I have heard of you," said Hadad, staring at him. "The
Australian who wandered all over Arabia? I am probably the only Arab
who knew what you really were. Do you recall that time at Wady Hafiz
when a local priest denounced you and a Sheik in a yellow kuffiyi told
the crowd that he knew you for a prophet? I am the same Sheik. I liked
your pluck. I often wondered what became of you."

"Put it here!" said Jeremy, and they shook hands.

For twenty minutes after that Hadad and Jeremy swapped reminiscences in
quick staccato time. It was like two Gatling guns playing a duet, and
the score was about equally intelligible to anyone unfamiliar with
Arabia's hinterland - which is to say to all except about one person in
ten million. It was most of it Greek to me, but Grim listened like an
operator to the ticking of the Morse code. It was Hadad who cut it
short; Jeremy would have talked all the way to Damascus.

"And so, Jimgrim, do the kites foregather? Or are we a forlorn hope?
Do we go to bury Feisul or to crown him king?"

"How much do you know?" Grim answered.

"Hah! More than you, my friend! I come from Europe - London - Paris -
Rome. I stopped off in Deraa to listen a while, where the tide of
rumour flows back and forth across the border. The English are in
favour of Feisul, and would help him if they could. The French are
against him and would rather have him a dead saint than a living
nuisance. The most disturbing rumour I have heard was here in Deraa, to
the effect that Feisul sent a letter to Jerusalem calling on all Moslems
to rise and massacre the Jews. That does not sound like Feisul, but the
French agent in Deraa assured me that he will have the original letter
in his hands within a day or two."

Grim smiled over at Mabel.

"You might show him the letter?" he suggested.

So Mabel dug down into the mysteries beneath her shirtwaist and produced
the document wrapped in a medical bandage of oiled silk. Hadad unwrapped
it, read it carefully, and handed it to Grim.

"Are you deceived by that?" he asked. "Does Feisul speak like that, or
write like that? Since when has he turned coward that he should sign
his name with a number?"

"What do you make of it?" asked Grim.

"Hah! It is as plain as the ink on the paper. It is intended for use
against Feisul, first by making the British suspicious of him, second by
providing the French with an excuse to attack him, third by convicting
him of treachery, for which he can be jailed or executed after he is
caught. What do you propose to do with it, Jimgrim?"

"I'm going to show it to Feisul."

"Good! I, too, am on my way to see Feisul. Perhaps the two of us
together can convince him what is best."

"If we two first agree," Grim answered with a dry smile.

"Do you agree that two and two make four? This is just as simple,
Jimgrim. Feisul cannot contend with the French. The financiers have
spread their net for Syria, Feisul has no artillery worth speaking of -
no gas - no masks against gas, and the French have plenty of everything
except money. Syria has been undermined by propaganda and corruption.
Let Feisul go to British territory and thence to Europe, where his
friends may have a chance to work for him. The British will give him
Mesopotamia, and after that it will be up to us Arabs to prove we are a
nation. That is my argument. Are we agreed?"

"If that's your plan, Hadad, I'm with you!" Grim answered.

"Then I also am with you! Let us shake hands."

"Shwai shwai!" (Go slow!) said Grim. "Better join up with me in
Damascus. There are six men in the car ahead who'll try to murder us
all presently. They've got a letter that they think is that one. The
minute they find out we've fooled them there'll be ructions."

"I am good at ructions!" Hadad answered.

"My friend Narayan Singh is forward watching them," said Grim. "What
they'll probably try when they make the discovery will be to have the
lot of us arrested at some wayside station. I propose to forestall
them."

"I am good at forestalling!" said Hadad.

"Then don't you forestall me!" laughed Jeremy. "The fellow with a face
like a pig's stern is Yussuf Dakmar, and he's my special preserve."

"I am a good Moslem. I refuse to lay hand on pig," said Hadad, smiling.

We discussed Feisul and the Arab cause.

"Oh, if we had Lawrence with us!" exclaimed Hadad excitedly at last. "A
little, little man - hardly any larger than Mrs. Ticknor - but a David
against Goliath! And would you believe it? - there is an idiotic rumour
that Lawrence has returned and is hiding in Damascus! The French are
really disturbed about it. They have cabled their Foreign Office and
received an official denial of the rumour; but official denials carry
no weight nowadays. Out of ten Frenchmen in Syria, five believe that
Lawrence is with Feisul and if they can catch him he will get short
shrift. But, oh, Jimgrim - oh, if it were true! Wallahi!"

Grim didn't answer, but I saw him look long at Jeremy, and then for
about thirty seconds steadily at Mabel Ticknor. After that he stared
out of the window for a long time, not even moving his head when a crowd
of Bedouins galloped to within fifty yards of the train and volleyed at
it from horseback "merely out of devilment," as Hadad hastened to assure
us.

We were winding up the Lebanon Valley by that time. Carpets of flowers;
green grass; waterfalls; a thatched hut to the twenty square miles,
with a scattering of mean black tents between; every stone building in
ruins; goats where fat kine ought to be; and a more or less modern
railway screeching across the landscape, short of fuel and oil. That's
Lebanon.

We grew depressed. Then silent. Our meditations were interrupted by
the sudden arrival of Narayan Singh in the door of the compartment,
grinning full of news.

"They have opened the letter, sahib! They accuse Yussuf Dakmar of
deceiving them. They threaten him with death. Shall I interfere?"

"Any sign of the train crew?" Grim asked.

"Nay, they are gambling in the brake-van."

Grim looked sharply at Hadad.

"What authority have you got?"

"None. I am a personal friend of Feisul, that is all."

"Well, we'll pretend you've power to arrest them. Ramsden, you've
suddenly missed your letter. You've accused Jeremy of stealing it. He
has confessed to selling it to Yussuf Dakmar. Go forward in a rage and
demand the letter back. Start something before they're ready for it!
We'll be just behind you."

"Leave Yussuf Dakmar to me!" insisted Jeremy. "I pay the debt of an
Anzac division!"

I hope I've never hurt a man who didn't deserve it, or who wasn't fit to
fight; but I have to admit that Grim didn't need to repeat the
invitation. I started forward in a hurry, and Jeremy elbowed Narayan
Singh aside in order to follow next, Australians being notoriously
unlady-like performers when anybody's hat is in the ring.

By the time I reached the car ahead the train had entered a wild gorge
circle by one of those astonishing hairpin curves with which engineers
defeat Nature. The panting engine slowed almost to a snail's pace,
having only a scant fuel ration with which to negotiate curve and grade
combined. To our right there was a nearly sheer drop of four hundred
feet, with a stream at the bottom boiling among limestone boulders.

But there was no time to study scenery. From the middle compartment of
the car there came yells for help and the peculiar noise of thump and
scuffle that can't be mistaken. Men fight in various ways, Lord knows,
and the worst are the said-to-be civilized; but from Nome to Cape Town
and all the way from China to Peru the veriest tenderfoot can tell in
the dark the difference between fight and horseplay.

I reached the door of the compartment in time to see three of them (two
bleeding from knife-wounds in the face) force Yussuf Dakmar backward
toward the window, the whole lot stabbing frantically as they milled and
swayed. The fifth man was holding on to the scrimmage with his left
hand and reaching round with his right, trying to stick a knife into
Yussuf Dakmar's ribs without endangering his own hide.

But the sixth man was the rascal I had kicked. He had no room - perhaps
no inclination - to get into the scrimmage; so he saw me first, and he
needed no spur to his enmity. With a movement as quick as a cat's and
presence of mind that accounted for his being leader of the gang, he
seized the fifth man by the neck and spun him round to call his
attention; and the two came for me together like devils out of a
spring-trap.

Now the narrow door of a compartment on a train isn't any kind of easy
place to fight in, but I vow and declare that Jeremy and I both did our
best for Yussuf Dakmar. That's a remarkable thing if you come to think
of it. As a dirty murderer - thief - liar - traitor - spy, he hadn't much
claim on our affections and Jeremy cherished a war-grudge against him on
top of it all. What is it that makes us side with the bottom dog
regardless of pros and cons?

It was a nasty mix-up, because they used knives and we relied on hands
and fists. I've used a pick-handle on occasion and a gun when I've had
to, but speaking generally it seems to me to demean a white man to use
weapons in a row like that, and I find that most fellows who have walked
the earth much agree with me.

We tried to go in like a typhoon, shock-troop style, but it didn't work.
Another man let go of Yussuf Dakmar, who was growing weak and too short
of wind to yell, and in a moment there were five of us struggling on the
floor between the seats, one man under me with my forearm across his
throat and another alongside me, stabbing savagely at a leather valise
under the impression that he was carving up my ribs. On top of that
mess Narayan Singh pounced like a tiger, wrenching at arms and legs
until I struggled to my feet again - only to be thrust aside by Jeremy as


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