“Good lord!” I said. “Are the Zionists so reckless?”.
“No, the Arabs are. Remember what old Scharnhoff said the other day about the new fanaticism?”
“Is Scharnhoff mixed up in it?”
“He’s being watched. If the Arabs pull it off, they’ll accuse the Jews of doing it, and set to work to butcher every Jew in the Near East. That will oblige the British to protect the Jews. That in turn will set every Mohammedan in the world—’specially Indians, but Egyptians, too—against the British. Jihad—green banner—holy war—all the East and Northern Africa alight while the French snaffle Syria. Sound good to you?”
“Sir Louis knows this?”
“He, is paid to know things.”
“And he lets you play cat and mouse with it?”
“Got to be careful. Suppose we draw the net too soon, what then? Most of the conspirators escape. The story leaks out. The Jews get the blame for the attempt, and sooner or later the massacre begins anyhow. What we’ve got to do is bag every last mother’s son of them, and suppress the whole story—return the TNT to store, and swear it was never missing.”
“The Administrator has his nerve,” I said.
“You’ll need yours, too, before this game’s played,” Grim answered. “D’you see now why I picked on you for an accomplice?”
“I do not.”
“You’re the one man in Jerusalem whom nobody will suspect, or be on the look-out for. The men we’re up against are the shrewdest rats in Palestine. They’ve got a list of British officers, my name included, of course. They’ll know which men are assigned to special duty, and they’ll keep every one of us shadowed.”
“Won’t that—I mean, how can you work if you’re shadowed?”
“Me? I shall catch my spur in the carpet, fall downstairs and break a leg at ten-fifteen. At ten-thirty the doctor comes, and finds me too badly hurt to be moved. He sends word of it to Sir Louis by an orderly who can be trusted to talk to any one he meets on the way. I leave by the back way at ten forty-five. However, here’s a chance for you to practise deaf-and-dumb drill. There’s some one coming. Squat down in that corner. Look meek and miserable. That’s the stuff. Answer the door, Suliman.”
“You may now be unsafe and an outlaw and enjoy yourself!”
The man who entered was a short, middle-aged Jew of the type that writes political reviews for magazines—black morning coat, straw hat, gold pince-nez—a neatly trimmed dark beard beginning to turn gray from intense mental emotion—nearly bald—a manner of conceding the conventions rather than argue the point, without admitting any necessity for them—a thin-lipped smile that apologized for smiling in a world so serious and bitter. He wore a U.S.A. ten-dollar gold piece on his watch chain, by way of establishing his nationality.