“All right,” said Jeremy, “I’ll give him the gold mine. Let him erect a modern plant and he’ll have millions!”
“Uh-huh! Keep the mine secret. Let him go to London and arrange about Mespot. Just at present High Finance could find a hundred ways of disputing his title to the mine, but once he’s king with the Arabs all rooting for him things’ll be different. He’ll treat you right when that time comes, don’t worry.”
“Worry? Me?” said Jeremy. “All that worries me is having to see this business through before we can make a wake for Sydney. I’m homesick. But never mind. All right, you fellers, I’ll make one to give this Feisul boy a hoist!”
“Atcha, Jimgrim sahib! Atcha!”
That conversation and Jeremy’s conversion to the big idea took place on the way across the desert to Jerusalem—a journey that took us a week on camel-back—a rowdy, hot journey with the stifling simoom blowing grit into our followers’ throats, who sang and argued alternately nevertheless. For, besides our old Ali Baba and his sixteen sons and grandsons, there were Jeremy’s ten pickups from Arabia’s byways, whom he couldn’t leave behind because they knew the secret of his gold-mine.
Grim’s authority is always at its height on the outbound trail, for then everybody knows that success, and even safety, depends on his swift thinking; on the way home afterward reaction sets in sometimes, because Arabs are made light-headed by success, and it isn’t a simple matter to discipline free men when you have no obvious hold over them.
But that was where Jeremy came in. Jeremy could do tricks, and the Arabs were like children when he performed for them. They would be good if he would make one live chicken into two live ones by pulling it apart. They would pitch the tents without fighting if he would swallow a dozen eggs and produce them presently from under a camel’s tail. If he would turn on his ventriloquism and make a camel say its prayers, they were willing to forgive—for the moment anyhow—even their nearest enemies.
So we became a sort of travelling sideshow, with Jeremy ballyhooing for himself in an amazing flow of colloquial Arabic, and hardly ever repeating the same trick.
All of which was very good for our crowd and convenient at the moment, but hardly so good for Jeremy’s equilibrium. He is one of those handsome, perpetually youthful fellows, whose heads have been a wee mite turned by the sunshine of the world’s warm smile. I don’t mean by that that he isn’t a tophole man, or a thorough-going friend with guts and gumption, who would chance his neck for anyone he likes without a second’s hesitation, for he’s every bit of that. He has horse sense, too, and isn’t fooled by the sort of flattery that women lavish on men who have laughing eyes and a little dark moustache.
But he hasn’t been yet in a predicament that he couldn’t laugh or fight his way out of; he has never yet found a job that he cared to stick at for more than a year or two, and seldom one that could hold him for six months.