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O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 309 pages of information about O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919.

“Najib!” stammered Kirby, still dazed.

“And here is that most sweet book of great worthiness and wit, which I borrowed me of you in the night, howadji,” pursued Najib, taking from the soiled folds of his abieh a large old volume, bound in stout leather, after the manner of religious or scientific books of a half-century ago.  On the brown back a scratched gold lettering proclaimed the gruesome title: 

“Martyrs of Ancient and Modern Error.”

Well did Kirby know the tome.  Hundreds of times, as a child, had he sat on the stone floor of his father’s cell-like mission study at Nablous, and had pored in shuddering fascination over its highly coloured illustrations.  The book was a compilation—­chiefly in the form of multichrome pictures with accompanying borders of text—­of all the grisly scenes of martyrdom which the publishers had been able to scrape together from such classics as “Fox’s Book of Martyrs” and the like.  Twice this past year he had surprised Najib scanning the gruesome pages in frank delight.

“I betook the book to their campfire, howadji, and I smote upon my breast and I bewept me and I wailed aloud and I would not make comfort.  Till at last they all awoken and they came out of their huts and they reviled at me for disturbing them as they slept themselfs so happily.  Then I spake much to them.  And all the time I teared with my eyes and moaned aloudly.

“But,” put in Kirby, “I don’t see what this—­”

“In a presently you shall, howadji.  Yesterday I begot your goat.  To-day I shall make you to frisk with peacefulness of heart.  Those fellaheen cannot read.  They are not of an education, as I am.  And they know my wiseness in reading.  For over than a trillion times I have told them.  And they believe.  Pictures also they believe.  Just as men of an education believe the printed word; knowing full well it could not be printed if it were not Allah’s own truth.  Well, these folk believe a picture, if it be in a book.  So I showed them pictures.  And I read the law which was beneath the pictures.  They heard me read.  And they saw the pictures with their own eyesight.  So what could they do but believe?  And they did.  Behold, howadji!”

Opening the volume with respectful care, Najib thumbed the yellowing pages.  Presently he paused at a picture which represented in glaring detail a stricken battlefield strewn with dead and dying Orientals of vivid costume.  In the middle distance a regiment of prisoners was being slaughtered in a singularly bloodthirsty fashion.  The caption, above the cut, read: 

"Destruction of Sennacherib’s Assyrian Hosts, by the People of Israel."

“While yet they gazed joyingly on this noble picture,” remarked Najib, “I read to them the words of the law about it.  I read aloudly, thus:  ’This shall be the way of punishing all folk who make strike hereafter this date.’  Then,” continued Najib, “I showed to them another pretty and splendid picture.  See!”

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