THE WIDER WAY
Some months later the following letter came to David Claridge in Cairo from
Faith Claridge in Hamley:
David, I write thee from the village and the land of the people
which thou didst once love so well. Does thee love them still?
They gave thee sour bread to eat ere thy going, but yet thee didst
grind the flour for the baking. Thee didst frighten all who knew
thee with thy doings that mad midsummer time. The tavern, the
theatre, the cross-roads, and the cockpit—was ever such a day!
Now, Davy, I must tell of a strange thing. But first, a moment.
Thee remembers the man Kimber smitten by thee at the public-house on
that day? What think thee has happened? He followed to London the
lass kissed by thee, and besought her to return and marry him. This
she refused at first with anger; but afterwards she said that, if in
three years he was of the same mind, and stayed sober and hard-
working meanwhile, she would give him an answer, she would consider.
Her head was high. She has become maid to a lady of degree, who has
well befriended her.
How do I know these things? Even from Jasper Kimber, who, on his
return from London, was taken to his bed with fever. Because of the
hard blows dealt him by thee, I went to make amends. He welcomed
me, and soon opened his whole mind. That mind has generous moments,
David, for he took to being thankful for thy knocks.
Now for the strange thing I hinted. After visiting Jasper Kimber at
Heddington, as I came back over the hill by the path we all took
that day after the Meeting—Ebn Ezra Bey, my father, Elder Fairley,
and thee and me—I drew near the chairmaker's but where thee lived
alone all those sad months. It was late evening; the sun had set.
Yet I felt that I must needs go and lay my hand in love upon the
door of the empty hut which had been ever as thee left it. So I
came down the little path swiftly, and then round the great rock,
and up towards the door. But, as I did so, my heart stood still,
for I heard voices. The door was open, but I could see no one. Yet
there the voices sounded, one sharp and peevish with anger, the
other low and rough. I could not hear what was said. At last, a
figure came from the door and went quickly down the hillside. Who,
think thee, was it? Even "neighbour Eglington." I knew the walk
and the forward thrust of the head. Inside the hut all was still.
I drew near with a kind of fear, but yet I came to the door and
As I looked into the dusk, my limbs trembled under me, for who
should be sitting there, a half-finished chair between his knees,
but Soolsby the old chair-maker! Yes, it was he. There he sat
looking at me with his staring blue eyes and shock of redgrey hair.
"Soolsby! Soolsby!" said I, my heart hammering at my breast; for
was not Soolsby dead and buried? His eyes stared at me in fright.
"Why do you come?" he said in a hoarse whisper. "Is he dead, then?
Has harm come to him?"
By now I had recovered myself, for it was no ghost I saw, but a
human being more distraught than was myself. "Do you not know me,
Soolsby?" I asked. "You are Mercy Claridge from beyond—beyond and
away," he answered dazedly. "I am Faith Claridge, Soolsby,"
answered I. He started, peered forward at me, and for a moment he
did not speak; then the fear went from his face. "Ay, Faith
Claridge, as I said," he answered, with apparent understanding, his
stark mood passing. "No, thee said Mercy Claridge, Soolsby," said
I, "and she has been asleep these many years." "Ay, she has slept
soundly, thanks be to God!" he replied, and crossed himself. "Why
should thee call me by her name?" I inquired. "Ay, is not her tomb
in the churchyard?" he answered, and added quickly, "Luke Claridge
and I are of an age to a day—which, think you, will go first?"
He stopped weaving, and peered over at me with his staring blue
eyes, and I felt a sudden quickening of the heart. For, at the
question, curtains seemed to drop from all around me, and leave me
in the midst of pains and miseries, in a chill air that froze me to
the marrow. I saw myself alone—thee in Egypt and I here, and none
of our blood and name beside me. For we are the last, Davy, the
last of the Claridges. But I said coldly, and with what was near to
anger, that he should link his name and fate with that of Luke
Claridge: "Which of ye two goes first is God's will, and according
to His wisdom. Which, think thee," added I—and now I cannot
forgive myself for saying it—"which, think thee, would do least
harm in going?" "I know which would do most good," he answered,
with a harsh laugh in his throat. Yet his blue eyes looked kindly
at me, and now he began to nod pleasantly. I thought him a little
mad, but yet his speech had seemed not without dark meaning. "Thee
has had a visitor," I said to him presently. He laughed in a
snarling way that made me shrink, and answered: "He wanted this and
he wanted that—his high-handed, second-best lordship. Ay, and he
would have it, because it pleased him to have it—like his father
before him. A poor sparrow on a tree-top, if you tell him he must
not have it, he will hunt it down the world till it is his, as
though it was a bird of paradise. And when he's seen it fall at
last, he'll remember but the fun of the chase; and the bird may get
to its tree-top again—if it can—if it can—if it can, my lord!
That is what his father was, the last Earl, and that is what he is
who left my door but now. He came to snatch old Soolsby's palace,
his nest on the hill, to use it for a telescope, or such whimsies.
He has scientific tricks like his father before him. Now is it
astronomy, and now chemistry, and suchlike; and always it is the
Eglington mind, which let God A'mighty make it as a favour. He
would have old Soolsby's palace for his spy-glass, would he then?
It scared him, as though I was the devil himself, to find me here.
I had but come back in time—a day later, and he would have sat here
and seen me in the Pit below before giving way. Possession's nine
points were with me; and here I sat and faced him; and here he
stormed, and would do this and should do that; and I went on with my
work. Then he would buy my Colisyum, and I wouldn't sell it for all
his puffball lordship might offer. Isn't the house of the snail as
much to him as the turtle's shell to the turtle? I'll have no
upstart spilling his chemicals here, or devilling the stars from a
seat on my roof." "Last autumn," said I, "David Claridge was housed
here. Thy palace was a prison then." "I know well of that.
Haven't I found his records here? And do you think his makeshift
lordship did not remind me?" "Records? What records, Soolsby?"
asked I, most curious. "Writings of his thoughts which he forgot—
food for mind and body left in the cupboard." "Give them to me upon
this instant, Soolsby," said I. "All but one," said he, "and that
is my own, for it was his mind upon Soolsby the drunken chair-maker.
God save him from the heathen sword that slew his uncle. Two better
men never sat upon a chair!" He placed the papers in my hand, all
save that one which spoke of him. Ah, David, what with the flute
and the pen, banishment was no pain to thee!... He placed the
papers, save that one, in my hands, and I, womanlike, asked again
for all. "Some day," said he, "come, and I will read it to you.
Nay, I will give you a taste of it now," he added, as he brought
forth the writing. "Thus it reads."
Here are thy words, Davy. What think thee of them now?
"As I dwell in this house I know Soolsby as I never knew him when he
lived, and though, up here, I spent many an hour with him. Men
leave their impressions on all around them. The walls which have
felt their look and their breath, the floor which has taken their
footsteps, the chairs in which they have sat, have something of
their presence. I feel Soolsby here at times so sharply that it
would seem he came again and was in this room, though he is dead and
gone. I ask him how it came he lived here alone; how it came that
he made chairs, he, with brains enough to build great houses or
great bridges; how it was that drink and he were such friends; and
how he, a Catholic, lived here among us Quakers, so singular,
uncompanionable, and severe. I think it true, and sadly true, that
a man with a vice which he is able to satisfy easily and habitually,
even as another satisfies a virtue, may give up the wider actions of
the world and the possibilities of his life for the pleasure which
his one vice gives him, and neither miss nor desire those greater
chances of virtue or ambition which he has lost. The simplicity of
a vice may be as real as the simplicity of a virtue."
Ah, David, David, I know not what to think of those strange words;
but old Soolsby seemed well to understand thee, and he called thee
"a first-best gentleman." Is my story long? Well, it was so
strange, and it fixed itself upon my mind so deeply, and thy
writings at the hut have been so much in my hands and in my mind,
that I have put it all down here. When I asked Soolsby how it came
he had been rumoured dead, he said that he himself had been the
cause of it; but for what purpose he would not say, save that he was
going a long voyage, and had made up his mind to return no more. "I
had a friend," he said, "and I was set to go and see that friend
again.... But the years go on, and friends have an end. Life
spills faster than the years," he said. And he would say no more,
but would walk with me even to my father's door. "May the Blessed
Virgin and all the Saints be with you," he said at parting, "if you
will have a blessing from them. And tell him who is beyond and away
in Egypt that old Soolsby's busy making a chair for him to sit in
when the scarlet cloth is spread, and the East and West come to
salaam before him. Tell him the old man says his fluting will be
And now, David, I have told thee all, nearly. Remains to say that
thy one letter did our hearts good. My father reads it over and
over, and shakes his head sadly, for, truth is, he has a fear that
the world may lay its hand upon thee. One thing I do observe, his
heart is hard set against Lord Eglington. In degree it has ever
been so; but now it is like a constant frown upon his forehead. I
see him at his window looking out towards the Cloistered House; and
if our neighbour comes forth, perhaps upon his hunter, or now in his
cart, or again with his dogs, he draws his hat down upon his eyes
and whispers to himself. I think he is ever setting thee off
against Lord Eglington; and that is foolish, for Eglington is but a
man of the earth earthy. His is the soul of the adventurer.
Now what more to be set down? I must ask thee how is thy friend Ebn
Ezra Bey? I am glad thee did find all he said was true, and that in
Damascus thee was able to set a mark by my uncle's grave. But that
the Prince Pasha of Egypt has set up a claim against my uncle's
property is evil news; though, thanks be to God, as my father says,
we have enough to keep us fed and clothed and housed. But do thee
keep enough of thy inheritance to bring thee safe home again to
those who love thee. England is ever grey, Davy, but without thee
it is grizzled—all one "Quaker drab," as says the Philistine. But
it is a comely and a good land, and here we wait for thee.
In love and remembrance.
I am thy mother's sister, thy most loving friend.
David received this letter as he was mounting a huge white Syrian donkey to
ride to the Mokattam Hills, which rise sharply behind Cairo, burning and lonely
and large. The cities of the dead Khalifas and Mamelukes separated them from the
living city where the fellah toiled, and Arab, Bedouin, Copt strove together to
intercept the fruits of his toiling, as it passed in the form of taxes to the
Palace of the Prince Pasha; while in the dark corners crouched, waiting, the
cormorant usurers—Greeks, Armenians, and Syrians, a hideous salvage corps, who
saved the house of a man that they might at last walk off with his shirt and the
cloth under which he was carried to his grave. In a thousand narrow streets and
lanes, in the warm glow of the bazaars, in earth-damp huts, by blistering quays,
on the myriad ghiassas on the river, from long before sunrise till the
sunset-gun boomed from the citadel rising beside the great mosque whose
pinnacles seem to touch the blue, the slaves of the city of Prince Kaid ground
out their lives like corn between the millstones.
David had been long enough in Egypt to know what sort of toiling it was. A
man's labour was not his own. The fellah gave labour and taxes and backsheesh
and life to the State, and the long line of tyrants above him, under the sting
of the kourbash; the high officials gave backsheesh to the Prince Pasha, or to
his Mouffetish, or to his Chief Eunuch, or to his barber, or to some slave who
had his ear.
But all the time the bright, unclouded sun looked down on a smiling land, and
in Cairo streets the din of the hammers, the voices of the boys driving heavily
laden donkeys, the call of the camel-drivers leading their caravans into the
great squares, the clang of the brasses of the sherbet-sellers, the song of the
vendor of sweetmeats, the drone of the merchant praising his wares, went on amid
scenes of wealth and luxury, and the city glowed with colour and gleamed with
light. Dark faces grinned over the steaming pot at the door of the cafes, idlers
on the benches smoked hasheesh, female street-dancers bared their faces
shamelessly to the men, and indolent musicians beat on their tiny drums, and
sang the song of "O Seyyid," or of "Antar"; and the reciter gave his sing-song
tale from a bench above his fellows. Here a devout Muslim, indifferent to the
presence of strangers, turned his face to the East, touched his forehead to the
ground, and said his prayers. There, hung to a tree by a deserted mosque near
by, the body of one who was with them all an hour before, and who had paid the
penalty for some real or imaginary crime; while his fellows blessed Allah that
the storm had passed them by. Guilt or innocence did not weigh with them; and
the dead criminal, if such he were, who had drunk his glass of water and prayed
to Allah, was, in their sight, only fortunate and not disgraced, and had "gone
to the bosom of Allah." Now the Muezzin from a minaret called to prayer, and the
fellah in his cotton shirt and yelek heard, laid his load aside, and yielded
himself to his one dear illusion, which would enable him to meet with apathy his
end—it might be to-morrow!—and go forth to that plenteous heaven where wives
without number awaited him, where fields would yield harvests without labour,
where rich food in gold dishes would be ever at his hand. This was his faith.
David had now been in the country six months, rapidly perfecting his
knowledge of Arabic, speaking it always to his servant Mahommed Hassan, whom he
had picked from the streets. Ebn Ezra Bey had gone upon his own business to
Fazougli, the tropical Siberia of Egypt, to liberate, by order of Prince
Kaid,—and at a high price—a relative banished there. David had not yet been
fortunate with his own business—the settlement of his Uncle Benn's estate—though
the last stages of negotiation with the Prince Pasha seemed to have been
reached. When he had brought the influence of the British Consulate to bear,
promises were made, doors were opened wide, and Pasha and Bey offered him coffee
and talked to him sympathetically. They had respect for him more than for most
Franks, because the Prince Pasha had honoured him with especial favour. Perhaps
because David wore his hat always and the long coat with high collar like a
Turk, or because Prince Kaid was an acute judge of human nature, and also
because honesty was a thing he greatly desired—in others—and never found near
his own person; however it was, he had set David high in his esteem at once.
This esteem gave greater certainty that any backsheesh coming from the estate of
Benn Claridge would not be sifted through many hands on its way to himself. Of
Benn Claridge Prince Kaid had scarcely even heard until he died; and, indeed, it
was only within the past few years that the Quaker merchant had extended his
business to Egypt and had made his headquarters at Assiout, up the river.
David's donkey now picked its way carefully through the narrow streets of the
Moosky. Arabs and fellaheen squatting at street corners looked at him with
furtive interest. A foreigner of this character they had never before seen, with
coat buttoned up like an Egyptian official in the presence of his superior, and
this wide, droll hat on his head. David knew that he ran risks, that his
confidence invited the occasional madness of a fanatical mind, which makes
murder of the infidel a passport to heaven; but as a man he took his chances,
and as a Christian he believed he would suffer no mortal hurt till his appointed
time. He was more Oriental, more fatalist, than he knew. He had also early in
his life learned that an honest smile begets confidence; and his face, grave and
even a little austere in outline, was usually lighted by a smile.
From the Mokattam Hills, where he read Faith's letter again, his back against
one of the forts which Napoleon had built in his Egyptian days, he scanned the
distance. At his feet lay the great mosque, and the citadel, whose guns
controlled the city, could pour into it a lava stream of shot and shell. The
Nile wound its way through the green plains, stretching as far to the north as
eye could see between the opal and mauve and gold of the Libyan Hills. Far over
in the western vista a long line of trees, twining through an oasis flanking the
city, led out to a point where the desert abruptly raised its hills of yellow
sand. Here, enormous, lonely, and cynical, the pyramids which Cheops had built,
the stone sphinx of Ghizeh, kept faith with the desert in the glow of rainless
land-reminders ever that the East, the mother of knowledge, will by knowledge
"The thousand years of thy insolence
The thousand years of thy faith,
Will be paid in fiery recompense,
And a thousand years of bitter death."
"The sword—for ever the sword," David said to himself, as he looked: "Rameses
and David and Mahomet and Constantine, and how many conquests have been made in
the name of God! But after other conquests there have been peace and order and
law. Here in Egypt it is ever the sword, the survival of the strongest."
As he made his way down the hillside again he fell to thinking upon all Faith
had written. The return of the drunken chair-maker made a deep impression on
him—almost as deep as the waking dreams he had had of his uncle calling him.
"Soolsby and me—what is there between Soolsby and me?" he asked himself now
as he made his way past the tombs of the Mamelukes. "He and I are as far apart
as the poles, and yet it comes to me now, with a strange conviction, that
somehow my life will be linked with that of the drunken Romish chair-maker. To
what end?" Then he fell to thinking of his Uncle Benn. The East was calling him.
"Something works within me to hold me here, a work to do."
From the ramparts of the citadel he watched the sun go down, bathing the
pyramids in a purple and golden light, throwing a glamour over all the western
plain, and making heavenly the far hills with a plaintive colour, which spoke of
peace and rest, but not of hope. As he stood watching, he was conscious of
people approaching. Voices mingled, there was light laughter, little bursts of
admiration, then lower tones, and then he was roused by a voice calling. He
turned round. A group of people were moving towards the exit from the ramparts,
and near himself stood a man waving an adieu.
"Well, give my love to the girls," said the man cheerily. Merry faces looked
back and nodded, and in a moment they were gone. The man turned round, and
looked at David, then he jerked his head in a friendly sort of way and motioned
towards the sunset.
"Good enough, eh?"
"Surely, for me," answered David. On the instant he liked the red, wholesome
face, and the keen, round, blue eyes, the rather opulent figure, the shrewd,
whimsical smile, all aglow now with beaming sentimentality, which had from its
softest corner called out: "Well, give my love to the girls."
"Quaker, or I never saw Germantown and Philadelphy," he continued, with a
friendly manner quite without offence. "I put my money on Quakers every time."
"But not from Germantown or Philadelphia," answered David, declining a cigar
which his new acquaintance offered.
"Bet you, I know that all right. But I never saw Quakers anywhere else, and I
meant the tribe and not the tent. English, I bet? Of course, or you wouldn't be
talking the English language—though I've heard they talk it better in Boston
than they do in England, and in Chicago they're making new English every day and
improving on the patent. If Chicago can't have the newest thing, she won't have
anything. 'High hopes that burn like stars sublime,' has Chicago. She won't let
Shakespeare or Milton be standards much longer. She won't have it—simply won't
have England swaggering over the English language. Oh, she's dizzy, is
Chicago—simply dizzy. I was born there. Parents, one Philadelphy, one New York,
one Pawtucket—the Pawtucket one was the step-mother. Father liked his wives from
the original States; but I was born in Chicago. My name is Lacey—Thomas Tilman
Lacey of Chicago."
"I thank thee," said David.
"And you, sir?"
"Mr. Claridge of Hamley. Mr. Claridge, I am glad to meet you." They shook
hands. "Been here long, Mr. Claridge?"
"A few months only."
"Queer place—gilt-edged dust-bin; get anything you like here, from a fresh
gutter-snipe to old Haroun-al-Raschid. It's the biggest jack-pot on earth.
Barnum's the man for this place—P. T. Barnum. Golly, how the whole thing
glitters and stews! Out of Shoobra his High Jinks Pasha kennels with his lions
and lives with his cellars of gold, as if he was going to take them with him
where he's going—and he's going fast. Here—down here, the people, the real
people, sweat and drudge between a cake of dourha, an onion, and a balass of
water at one end of the day, and a hemp collar and their feet off the ground at
"You have seen much of Egypt?" asked David, feeling a strange confidence in
the garrulous man, whose frankness was united to shrewdness and a quick,
"How much of Egypt I've seen, the Egypt where more men get lost, strayed, and
stolen than die in their beds every day, the Egypt where a eunuch is more
powerful than a minister, where an official will toss away a life as I'd toss
this cigar down there where the last Mameluke captain made his great jump, where
women—Lord A'mighty! where women are divorced by one evil husband, by the dozen,
for nothing they ever did or left undone, and yet 'd be cut to pieces by their
own fathers if they learned that 'To step aside is human—' Mr. Claridge, of that
Egypt I don't know much more'n would entitle me to say, How d'ye do. But it's
enough for me. You've seen something—eh?"
"A little. It is not civilised life here. Yet—yet a few strong patriotic
Lacey looked quizzically at David.
"Say," he said, "I thought that about Mexico once. I said Manana—this Manana
is the curse of Mexico. It's always to-morrow—to-morrow—to-morrow. Let's teach
'em to do things to-day. Let's show 'em what business means. Two million dollars
went into that experiment, but Manana won. We had good hands, but it had the
joker. After five years I left, with a bald head at twenty-nine, and a little
book of noble thoughts—Tips for the Tired, or Things you can say To-day on what
you can do to-morrow. I lost my hair worrying, but I learned to be patient. The
Dagos wanted to live in their own way, and they did. It's one thing to be a
missionary and say the little word in season; it's another to run your soft red
head against a hard stone wall. I went to Mexico a conquistador, I left it a
child of time, who had learned to smile; and I left some millions behind me,
too. I said to an old Padre down there that I knew—we used to meet in the Cafe
Manrique and drink chocolate—I said to him, 'Padre, the Lord's Prayer is a
mistake down here.' 'Si, senor,' he said, and smiled his far-away smile at me.
'Yes,' said I, 'for you say in the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily
bread."' 'Si, senor,' he says, 'but we do not expect it till to-morrow!' The
Padre knew from the start, but I learned at great expense, and went out of
business—closed up shop for ever, with a bald head and my Tips for the Tired.
Well, I've had more out of it all, I guess, than if I'd trebled the millions and
wiped Manana off the Mexican coat of arms."
"You think it would be like that here?" David asked abstractedly.
Lacey whistled. "There the Government was all right and the people all wrong.
Here the people are all right and the Government all wrong. Say, it makes my
eyes water sometimes to see the fellah slogging away. He's a Jim-dandy—works all
day and half the night, and if the tax-gatherer isn't at the door, wakes up
laughing. I saw one"—his light blue eyes took on a sudden hardness—"laughing on
the other side of his mouth one morning. They were 'kourbashing' his feet; I
landed on them as the soles came away. I hit out." His face became grave, he
turned the cigar round in his mouth. "It made me feel better, but I had a close
call. Lucky for me that in Mexico I got into the habit of carrying a pop-gun. It
saved me then. But it isn't any use going on these special missions. We
Americans think a lot of ourselves. We want every land to do as we do; and we
want to make 'em do it. But a strong man here at the head, with a sword in his
hand, peace in his heart, who'd be just and poor—how can you make officials
honest when you take all you can get yourself—! But, no, I guess it's no good.
This is a rotten cotton show."
Lacey had talked so much, not because he was garrulous only, but because the
inquiry in David's eyes was an encouragement to talk. Whatever his misfortunes
in Mexico had been, his forty years sat lightly on him, and his expansive
temperament, his childlike sentimentality, gave him an appearance of beaming,
sophisticated youth. David was slowly apprehending these things as he
talked—subconsciously, as it were; for he was seeing pictures of the things he
himself had observed, through the lens of another mind, as primitive in some
regards as his own, but influenced by different experiences.
"Say, you're the best listener I ever saw," added Lacey, with a laugh.
David held out his hand. "Thee sees things clearly," he answered.
Lacey grasped his hand.
At that moment an orderly advanced towards them. "He's after us—one of the
Palace cavalry," said Lacey.
"Effendi—Claridge Effendi! May his grave be not made till the
karadh-gatherers return," said the orderly to David.
"My name is Claridge," answered David.
"To the hotel, effendi, first, then to the Mokattam Hills after thee, then
here—from the Effendina, on whom be God's peace, this letter for thee."
David took the letter. "I thank thee, friend," he said.
As he read it, Lacey said to the orderly in Arabic "How didst thou know he
The orderly grinned wickedly.
"Always it is known what place the effendi honours. It is not dark where he
uncovers his face."
Lacey gave a low whistle.
"Say, you've got a pull in this show," he said, as David folded up the letter
and put it in his pocket.
"In Egypt, if the master smiles on you, the servant puts his nose in the
"The Prince Pasha bids me to dinner at the Palace to-night. I have no clothes
for such affairs. Yet—" His mind was asking itself if this was a door opening,
which he had no right to shut with his own hand. There was no reason why he
should not go; therefore there might be a reason why he should go. It might be,
it no doubt was, in the way of facilitating his business. He dismissed the
orderly with an affirmative and ceremonial message to Prince Kaid—and a piece of
"You've learned the custom of the place," said Lacey, as he saw the gold
piece glitter in the brown palm of the orderly.
"I suppose the man's only pay is in such service," rejoined David. "It is a
land of backsheesh. The fault is not with the people; it is with the rulers. I
am not sorry to share my goods with the poor."
"You'll have a big going concern here in no time," observed Lacey. "Now, if I
had those millions I left in Mexico—" Suddenly he stopped. "Is it you that's
trying to settle up an estate here—at Assiout—belonged to an uncle?"
David inclined his head.
"They say that you and Prince Kaid are doing the thing yourselves, and that
the pashas and judges and all the high-mogul sharks of the Medjidie think that
the end of the world has come. Is that so?"
"It is so, if not completely so. There are the poor men and humble—the pashas
and judges and the others of the Medjidie, as thee said, are not poor. But such
as the orderly yonder—" He paused meditatively.
Lacey looked at David with profound respect. "You make the poorest your
partners, your friends. I see, I see. Jerusalem, that's masterly! I admire you.
It's a new way in this country." Then, after a moment: "It'll do—by golly, it'll
do! Not a bit more costly, and you do some good with it. Yes—it—will—do."
"I have given no man money save in charity and for proper service done
openly," said David, a little severely.
"Say—of course. And that's just what isn't done here. Everything goes to him
who hath, and from him who hath not is taken away even that which he hath. One
does the work and another gets paid—that's the way here. But you, Mr. Claridge,
you clinch with the strong man at the top, and, down below, you've got as your
partners the poor man, whose name is Legion. If you get a fall out of the man at
the top, you're solid with the Legion. And if the man at the top gets up again
and salaams and strokes your hand, and says, 'Be my brother,' then it's a full
Nile, and the fig-tree putteth forth its tender branches, and the date-palm
flourisheth, and at the village pond the thanksgiving turkey gobbles and is
The sunset gun boomed out from the citadel. David turned to go, and Lacey
"I'm waiting for a pasha who's taking toll of the officers inside
there—Achmet Pasha. They call him the Ropemaker, because so many pass through
his hands to the Nile. The Old Muslin I call him, because he's so diaphanous.
Thinks nobody can see through him, and there's nobody that can't. If you stay
long in Egypt, you'll find that Achmet is the worst, and Nahoum the Armenian the
deepest, pasha in all this sickening land. Achmet is cruel as a tiger to any one
that stands in his way; Nahoum, the whale, only opens out to swallow now and
then; but when Nahoum does open out, down goes Jonah, and never comes up again.
He's a deep one, and a great artist is Nahoum. I'll bet a dollar you'll see them
both to-night at the Palace—if Kaid doesn't throw them to the lions for their
dinner before yours is served. Here one shark is swallowed by another bigger,
till at last the only and original sea-serpent swallows 'em all."
As David wound his way down the hills, Lacey waved a hand after him.
"Well, give my love to the girls," he said.