If he had really been my servant I would naturally have kicked him off the train for a fraction of such impudence. I didn’t exactly know what to do. There is a thoughtful motive behind every apparently random absurdity that Jeremy gets off, but I was uncomfortably conscious of the fact that my wits don’t work fast enough to follow such volatile manoeuvres. Perhaps it’s the Scotian blood in me. I can follow a practical argument fast enough, when the axioms’ are all laid down and we’re agreed on the subject.
However, Grim came to my rescue. He had his pencil out, and contrived to flick a piece of paper into my lap unseen by Yussuf Dakmar.
Jeremy’s cue is good [the note ran]. Dismiss him for talking about you to a stranger. Trust him to do the rest.
So I acted the part of an habitually heavy drinker in a fit of sudden rage, and dismissed Jeremy from my service on the spot.
“Very well,” he answered blandly. “Allah makes all things easy. Let us hope that other fellow finds it easy to put you to bed tonight! Allah is likewise good, for I have my ticket to Damascus, and all I need to beg for is a bed and food at Haifa.”
I muttered something in reply about his impudence, and the conversation ceased abruptly. But at the end of ten minutes or so Yussuf Dakmar went out into the corridor, signaling to Jeremy to follow him.
“He’ll forgive anyone who brings him whiskey.”
You remember, of course, that line that Shakespeare put into the mouth of Puck? “What fools these mortals be!” The biggest fools are the extra smart ones, whose pride and peculiar joy it is to “beat the game.”
Yussuf Dakmar assessed all other humans as grist for his mill. Character to him was expressed in degrees of folly and sheer badness. Virtue existed only as a weakness to be exploited. The question that always exercised him was, wherein does the other fellow’s weakness lie? It’s a form of madness. Where a sane man looks for strength and honesty that he can yoke up with, a Yussuf Dakmar spies out human failings; and whereas most of us in our day have mistaken pyrites for fine gold, which did not hurt more than was good for us, he ends by mistaking gold for dross.
You can persuade such a man without the slightest difficulty that you are a fool and a crook. Jeremy had turned the trick for his own amusement as much as anything, although his natural vein of shrewdness probably suggested the idea. Yussuf Dakmar, ready to believe all evil and no good of anyone, was convinced that he had to deal with a scatter-brained Arab who could be used for almost any purpose, and Jeremy’s riotous bent for jumping from one thing to another fixed the delusion still more firmly.