James stalked back obsequiously, leaving Fuzzy waiting unsteadily, with his brief spark of the divine fire gone.
Outside, Black Riley stamped his cold feet and got a firmer grip on his section of gas-pipe.
“You will conduct this gentleman,” said the lady, “Downstairs. Then tell Louis to get out the Mercedes and take him to whatever place he wishes to go.”
A NIGHT IN NEW ARABIA
The great city of Bagdad-on-the-Subway is caliph-ridden. Its palaces, bazaars, khans, and byways are thronged with Al Rashids in divers disguises, seeking diversion and victims for their unbridled generosity. You can scarcely find a poor beggar whom they are willing to let enjoy his spoils unsuccored, nor a wrecked unfortunate upon whom they will not reshower the means of fresh misfortune. You will hardly find anywhere a hungry one who has not had the opportunity to tighten his belt in gift libraries, nor a poor pundit who has not blushed at the holiday basket of celery-crowned turkey forced resoundingly through his door by the eleemosynary press.
So then, fearfully through the Harun-haunted streets creep the one-eyed calenders, the Little Hunchback and the Barber’s Sixth Brother, hoping to escape the ministrations of the roving horde of caliphoid sultans.
Entertainment for many Arabian nights might be had from the histories of those who have escaped the largesse of the army of Commanders of the Faithful. Until dawn you might sit on the enchanted rug and listen to such stories as are told of the powerful genie Roc-Ef-El-Er who sent the Forty Thieves to soak up the oil plant of Ali Baba; of the good Caliph Kar-Neg-Ghe, who gave away palaces; of the Seven Voyages of Sailbad, the Sinner, who frequented wooden excursion steamers among the islands; of the Fisherman and the Bottle; of the Barmecides’ Boarding house; of Aladdin’s rise to wealth by means of his Wonderful Gas-meter.
But now, there being ten sultans to one Sheherazade, she is held too valuable to be in fear of the bowstring. In consequence the art of narrative languishes. And, as the lesser caliphs are hunting the happy poor and the resigned unfortunate from cover to cover in order to heap upon them strange mercies and mysterious benefits, too often comes the report from Arabian headquarters that the captive refused “to talk.”
This reticence, then, in the actors who perform the sad comedies of their philanthropy-scourged world, must, in a degree, account for the shortcomings of this painfully gleaned tale, which shall be called
THE STORY OF THE CALIPH WHO ALLEVIATED HIS CONSCIENCE
Old Jacob Spraggins mixed for himself some Scotch and lithia water at his $1,200 oak sideboard. Inspiration must have resulted from its imbibition, for immediately afterward he struck the quartered oak soundly with his fist and shouted to the empty dining room: