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.
“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.