“Then come with me,” said I, “and we’ll make a night of it together. You and I can defend ourselves against those six.”
“Doubtless, sahib. But my place is within hail of Jimgrim. No, it is best that you see this matter through tonight between four walls. Only remember, sahib, that though a man on duty may feign sleep, it is wiser not to, because sleep steals on us unawares!”
So I returned to the bedroom where Grim and Jeremy were snoring a halleluja chorus; but Yussuf Dakmar hadn’t returned yet. I took advantage of the Syrian’s absence to open Grim’s valise, remove the bottle of doped whisky and set it on the table close to the window beside the two bottles that I had bought downstairs—one of which, for the sake of appearances, I opened just as Yussuf Dakmar entered, smiling to conceal anxiety.
“You made a bad break that time”
Grim was in Mephistophelian humor. He can sleep cat-fashion, for sixty seconds at a time, with all his wits about him in the intervals, and likes to feel in the crook of his own forefinger the hidden hair-trigger of events. I don’t think Jeremy was awake when I first entered the room, although it suited Grim’s humor that he should be presently; but you would have sworn they were both unconscious, judging by the see-saw, bass and baritone snoring.
I poured out whisky, drank a little of it grouchily, and watched Yussuf Dakmar into bed. He didn’t take many of his clothes off and even by candle-light you could see the shape of the knife concealed under his shirt. He sat cross-legged on the bed, presumably praying, and as I didn’t like the look of him I blew out the candle.
Instantly, pinched and prompted by James Schuyler Grim, Jeremy sat up and yammered profanely at the darkness, vowing he couldn’t see to sleep without a light in the room. I tinkled a tumbler against a whisky bottle, and Jeremy instantly swore that he heard burglars. Sitting up and whirling his pillow he knocked Yussuf Dakmar off the bed on to the floor.
So I lit the candle again, after emptying my glass of whisky into a spittoon; whereat Jeremy quoted the Koran about the fate of drunkards and, getting out of bed, apologized to Yussuf Dakmar like a courtier doing homage to a king.
“Your honor was born under a lucky star,” he assured him. “I usually shoot or stab, but the pillow was the first thing handy.”
The Syrian had hard work to keep his temper, for he had fallen on the haft of the hidden knife and it hurt him between two ribs, where a poorly conditioned man is extra sensitive. However, he mumbled something and crawled between the sheets.
Then Grim vowed that he couldn’t sleep with a light so I blew out the candle, and in about two minutes the steady seesaw snoring resumed. I took the opportunity to empty half the contents of a whisky bottle into the spittoon, and after lighting a pipe proceeded to clink a tumbler at steady intervals as evidence of debauch well under way.