My own sleep was done for that night, his advice notwithstanding. I lay listening to Anazeh’s thunderous snores and naturally enough imagining every possible contingency and dozens that were totally impossible. Nothing turned out in the least like any of my forecasts; but that was not for want of trying to foresee it all. I don’t seem to possess any of that quiet gift of waiting to deal with each development on its merits, as and when it comes. I have to speculate, and speculation is the ene my of peace.
Looking back, I don’t think I felt a bit afraid of the immediate future; but that was due to ignorance of nearly all that the present held. I think that was part of Grim’s reason for helping me to reach El-Kerak in the first place; he counted on my ignorance of danger to keep me cool-headed. It is true, it did dawn on me that if my host were to suspect me of intriguing under cover of his protection, the protection might cease with disconcerting abruptness. I realized to some extent what a predicament that would be. But on the whole, I think the only real worry was the definite task Grim had given me—the thankless, and very likely desperate, inglorious one of trying to keep old Anazeh sober.
Of course, the Koran forbids wine. But whiskey is not wine. And if you mix whiskey and wine together they cease to be either; they become a commodity of which the Prophet knew nothing and which he therefore did not forbid. But if you introduce such a mixture into the stomach, and thence into the brain of an already fiery Bedouin; and then introduce the Bedouin to trouble; and if, in addition to the trouble, you provide impertinent, alien, and what he calls infidel restraint, it is fair to presume that the mixture might explode.
It seemed to me I had been given too much to do. In order to get introductions to the notables I must first get ben Nazir into a proper frame of mind. Then, stammering in an alien tongue, I must make friends with chieftains who had never even heard of me; and that, when their minds were busy with another matter. I must keep in touch with ben Hamza, and convey his messages to Grim without being seen or arousing suspicion. In addition to all that I must keep sober by some means an old savage armed with two rifles and a knife, who had twenty cut-throats at his beck and call!
While I pondered the problem in all its impossible bearings, loud snores to right and left of me, tenor and bass by turns, announced that Jimgrim and Anazeh were as blissfully oblivious to my worries as the bedbugs were that had come out of hiding and discovered me. I began to feel homesick.
“That man will repay study.”
I got my first shot at Anazeh at dawn, when the muezzin began wailing over the city; and I missed badly with both barrels. The old sheikh looked into my room, presumably to see if I was still alive, since he had guaranteed to see me safely back again across the Jordan, before rounding up his rascals for morning prayer. They prayed together whenever possible, Anazeh keeping count of their genuflections.