“And the thing is?”
“Cheat a woman!”
“You mean his house keeper? She who answered the door?”
“You know you’ll get scuppered if you’re found out!”
Two days passed again without my seeing Grim, although I called on him repeatedly at the “Junior Staff Officers’ Mess” below the Zionist Hospital. Suliman, the eight-year-old imp of Arab mischief, who did duty as page-boy met me on each occasion at the door and took grinning delight in disappointing me.
He was about three and a half feet high—coal-black, with a tarboosh worn at an angle on his kinky hair and a flashing white grin across his snub-nosed face that would have made an archangel count the change out of two piastres twice. Suliman and cool cheek were as obvious team-mates as the Gemini, and I was one of a good number, that included every single member of that unofficial mess, who could never quite see what Grim found so admirable in him. Grim never explained.
Taking the cue from his master, neither did Suliman ever explain anything to any one but Grim, who seemed to understand him perfectly.
“Jimgrim not here. No, not coming back. Much business. Good-bye!”
Somehow you couldn’t suspect that kid of telling the truth. However, there was nothing for it but to go away, with a conviction in the small of your back that he was grinning mischievously after you.
Grim had found him one day starving and lousy in the archway of the Jaffa Gate, warming his fingers at a guttering candle-end preparatory to making a meal off the wax. He took him home and made Martha, the old Russian maid-of-all-work, clean him with kerosene and soft soap—gave him a big packing-case to sleep in along with Julius Caesar the near-bull-dog mascot—and thereafter broke him in and taught him things seldom included in a school curriculum.
In the result, Suliman adored Grim with all the concentrated zeal of hero-worship of which almost any small boy is capable; but under the shadow of Grim’s protection he feared not even “brass-hats” nor regarded civilians, although he was dreadfully afraid of devils. The devil-fear was a relic of his negroid ancestry. Some Arab Sheikh probably captured his great-grandmother on a slave-raid. Superstition lingers in dark veins longer than any other human failing.
I think I called five times before he confessed at last reluctantly that Grim was in. That was in the morning after breakfast, and I was shown into the room with the fireplace and the deep armchairs. Grim was reading but seemed to me more than usually reserved, as if the book had been no more than a screen to think behind, that left him in a manner unprotected when he laid it down. I talked at random, and he hardly seemed to be listening.
“Say,” he said, suddenly interrupting me, “you came out of that El-Kerak affair pretty creditably. Suppose I let you see something else from the inside. Will you promise not to shout it all over Jerusalem?”