“No hospitals up here! It’ll be soon over if they get wise to us. But I think we’re all right; and you’re almost certainly safe. But don’t be tempted to talk. Well—we’ve been up here long enough for me to have put you through the third degree. Better look a bit uncomfortable as you go down, as if I’d got under your skin with some awkward questions. You, too, ben Hamza; don’t grin; look afraid.”
“I am not at all afraid, Jimgrim. But I will try.”
Grim studied for a moment.
“Don’t forget,” he added, “at the first suggestion that you’re not wanted, make yourself scarce, and go and round up your men. If you’re thrown out pretty roughly, keep your temper and run.”
“Taht il-amr!” (Yours to command.)
“Come on, then. Let’s go.”
The sun was fairly low over the Judean Hills as we turned down the narrow stairs and found Anazeh waiting at the bottom.
“Feet downwards, too afraid to yell!”—
Abdul Ali of Damascus was holding the floor again when we returned. He had abandoned the cold air of mysterious authority and secrets in reserve. His claim to backstairs influence having been challenged, he had resorted to the emotional appeal that is the simplest means of controlling any crowd of men anywhere. The demagog who can find a million men all responsive to the same emotion can swing them as easily as a hundred if he knows his business. Loot was the tune he harped, with the old Ishmael blood-lust by way of obbligato.
He had them by the heart-strings, and there were long-necked bottles of liquor that smelt of aniseed being passed from hand to hand. We returned to our places almost unnoticed, and within the minute some one handed a full bottle to Anazeh; the accompanying cup was big enough to hold any ordinary drunkard’s breakfast, and the old sheikh’s eyes admired the size of it.
I laid my hand on the wrist that held the bottle. He shook it off angrily, and began to pour. Grim, over the way, looked anxious. It was up to me to play this hand, so I led my ace of trumps.
Suddenly, and very clumsily, I rocked sideways to reach my hip-pocket, contriving to jog his elbow and spill what was already in the cup. He turned his head to curse savagely, and I showed him the folded sheet from my notebook. His name was on it in Arabic:
“Sheikh Anazeh ben Mahmoud, from Jimgrim.”
He seized it, setting the bottle down between his feet, where it was instantly reached for by some one else and handed down the line. Reading was evidently not Anazeh’s favorite amusement, but he knitted his brows over the letter and wrestled with it word by word, while Abdul Ali’s fiery declamation made the vaulted roof resound. I could only make out snatches of the appeal to savagery—a word and a sentence here and there.
“Who are you, princes? Men with swords, or slaves who must obey?—Raid over the Jordan twenty thousand strong!—What are Jews? Shall Jews take the home of your ancestors? Who says so? —Let the Jews be buried in the land they come to steal!—You say the Jews are cleverer than you. Cut their heads off, then they cannot think!”