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First published in Short Stories, 10 August 1941

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Short Stories, 10 August 1941, with "Odds on the Prophet"


Rearing skyward, The Prophet leaped as though fifty yards of sea were the brook at Aintree!


THE Arabian inhabitants of Zakkum speak of the place as "the Jewel in the Prophet of God's girdle, more lovely than Hodeidah." But there are lots of people who don't admire Hodeidah; and the Lord Mohammed may have had peculiar taste in jewelry. The name Zakkum means "The Hell Tree." There is one tree there, outside the city, beyond the "Gate of the Doomed." It is used for execution purposes; critics from Hodeidah, for instance, are lashed to its barkless dead branches to stare at the hot sky. But Max Rector knew nothing of that, because Roddy Nolan had not yet told him. The advantage of not telling Max before one had to was that Max couldn't air wisdom about things he had never heard of. Roddy was looking for breaks—looking for them in the dark. He didn't want an argument

It was a hot night, even for the Red Sea coastline, where it is always scorching hot, raw-cold or stormy, and its storms come straight from hell. That is why it produces nothing else than fanatics—fanatical camels, customs, fleas and men, to say nothing of women. The moonless, breathless humidity was made more noticeably silent by the intermittent crash of a ground-swell, amid coral reefs and on the fangs of the stinking beach. It made the beach seem nearer than it was. The main street of Zakkum was a diagonal gully between blank white walls that looked like night turned solid. The sky was an ebony vault; the stars swung beneath it like colored electric bulbs. It was tragically stagey. Max had smashed his electric torch when he stepped ashore; there was no light to show where street curs lay; the Arabs stumbled over them and kicked them, cursed and yelping, to perdition, lancing the stuffy silence without relieving it. Hooded, cloaked and arrogantly masculine, but femininely curious, the Arabs walked slowly, those in front continually turning to stare and delaying the others. They had the unselfconscious self-assertiveness of small boys at an accident and the solemnity of mutes at a funeral. They breathed all the available air and that made Max Rector half-hysterical; he was more than a nuisance in that mood; he was dangerous. Roddy Nolan was an old-timer on the Red Sea littoral; he had been a buyer of horses, camels, sheep and goats during the World War. He did not know Zakkum except by reputation, but he did know Arabs. He knew how important it was to make a good impression. He was remembering his Arabic. He asked no questions.

"There!" he exclaimed suddenly. "Didn't I tell you? You can find a Greek wherever the Devil overdid it and forgot to wipe up."

A door in the left-hand wall had opened. Sudden, yellow lamplight splurged on the white wall opposite.

"What the hell good is a Greek?" Max Rector grumbled.

"'When you shake hands with a Greek, count your fingers,' say the Turks. But there's luck where Greeks are—"

"Good luck? Whose?"

"Not always good, but always something doing. Greeks are luck. They're like oil in engine bearings. That's what luck is—oil for opportunity. It's quite unmoral. You take it or leave it."

"Mention engine bearings to me and—"

"Oh, forget em." Roddy had heard enough about Max's troubles. "A Greek," he said, "can live and like it where they'd put an Armenian on the spot for one per cent as much chicanery. This one looks good."

"God, man! You're an optimist!"

"So is he, or he couldn't live here."

"You're bughouse." Max Rector meant that. He always sincerely believed anyone mad who had an idea, or who knew something he didn't know.

THE crowd of Arabs surged into the zone of light, through it, and revealed the Greek standing in his doorway, in an ill-fitting pair of soiled khaki pants and a clean shirt. He had close-clipped black hair and a Mephistophelian mustache. His face was as pock-marked as the surface of the moon, and as yellow, but he was not bad looking. His eyes were soft and liquid with a sort of wistful intelligence. He had a shapely and yet peculiarly vulgar looking nose. Through his open shirt the sweat shone on black hair that curled on his muscular chest and shoulders.

"Evening, gents." He grinned familiarly. "I'm Paulos Kamarajes—John D. Wanamaker-Macy-Altman-Montgomery Ward-Sears Roebuck of Zakkum. Cash and carry. U.S. dollars are as good as any money. What can I do for you?"

The Arabs crowded even closer, uncountable, smelling of leathery sweat, dead fish and burlap; only the nearest faces looked half-real, framed in the deceiving, hoary dignity of flowing head-dress; those that crowded behind and beyond were ghosts that belched, having had their supper, too much coffee, tobacco, no doubt kat, the green leaf that semi-stupefies them so that they believe the Red Sea Coast is civilized and sane.

"Make these creatures scram," Max Rector exploded. That was a real explosion. He was too respectable to swear if he could possibly restrain himself. He shoved two Arabs. They resented it; their slow grins in the yellow light looked deadlier than spoken threats.

"These are sons of the Prophet," said Kamarajes. He said it with emphasis. Evidently some one in the crowd knew enough English to get the gist of an insult. Max could think of nothing complimentary to say, so he piped down, wiping sweat on his silk shirt-sleeve, careful to hit no one with his elbow.

Roddy stated fundamentals: "We want word with the local ruler. I don't know why these people guided us to your place."

"I told them to, as soon as I saw you drop anchor," said Kamarajes. "The local ruler is away from home. These people don't like it that you have brought a guard ashore. They ask, do you think them bad men who might abuse you? I said to them let me be interpreter. They won't abuse you if you leave it to me."

Roddy thought it as well to give the Greek fair warning. It might limit the scope of obliquity. So he answered: "Thank you. I speak Arabic."

"Maybe," said the Greek. "But I know Zakkum. You better tell those sailors off your yacht to go back. They might be abused badly if they don't go. You are safer without them."

It was Max's yacht. They were his men, paid to applaud his whimsies. If Max should explode like a fulminate cap, he might detonate that bo'sun and eight men, and they were likely to start something even more expensive than an engine breakdown. Roddy consulted Max in whispers.

"D'you want us killed or kidnapped?" Max retorted.

"Either trust my judgment or use your own. Suit yourself," said Roddy. He could keep his own temper but not Max's also.

"All right, have it your own way," Max shrugged off the responsibility and shouted: "Bo'sun, take your men back to the beach. If the crowd bothers you there, push off in the boat, but stay close inshore. I'll fire a pistol if I want you. Come then in a hurry."

"Aye, aye, sir." The feet of nine invisible men trudged away into the darkness, like a noise offstage; they suggested an army in the wings.

"Dammit, they'll believe I've met a woman," Max grumbled.

"Perhaps you have," said Kamarajes. "You have come to the right place."

"Oh, are you a madam?" Max asked. He couldn't resist parading his respectability. His was a millionaire morality, contemptuous, swift to nail labels on lies; and a lie was whatever he didn't believe.

BUT the Greek had been insulted by Arab experts; whoever has endured that and survived it, can keep his temper if nothing else. He chuckled. "Come in, gents." He stood aside, speaking to the almost invisible crowd in fluent Arabic. He appeared to have influence; they began drifting away. When he entered he bolted the door behind him. "I have promised by the nine-and-ninety names of Allah, that I will tell them your business," he announced. "That should keep them quiet. How about a drink, gents. There's no ice, but I've Johnny Walker, Haig and Haig, Mattel, Benedictine, Curaçao—"

"Sell 'em?" Max asked, remembering something he had heard about Arab religion and prohibition. He had forgotten his cue to pipe down.

"Swap 'em. Seed pearls—skins—hides—coffee—oyster-shell. This is prohibition country—not Wahabi, mind you—not yet. The Wahabis* are coming, but not yet. You don't get crucified—not yet—for touching liquor. But it's against religion, and sin's expensive—twenty-five or thirty bucks a bottle. This is on the house, though. What's yours? How about a cocktail?"

* The Wahabis, ruled by Ibn Saoud, are a fanatically puritan sect that has already conquered Mecca and is ambitious to bring all Arabia under its grim domination.

"No ice? Scotch for me," said Roddy Nolan. "Let me smell that bottle."

Max saw the point of accepting hospitality. He did his best to be gracious. "Me, too, if that isn't poison."

"Gents," said Kamarajes, "those Arabs are dangerous on a quart of the real thing. Bootleg hootch 'ud make 'em cuckoo; they'd skin me alive. What 'ud make a tough coon sentimental in the Loop, 'ud set these bozos to Kukluxing infidels. I'm an infidel, and so are you, so let's be honest. I sell straight goods."

He glanced around the store with an air of being amused by his own pride. It was a big square room with a stench of hides that came through shutterless windows opening on a courtyard in the rear. There were shelves stacked with the usual trade goods, a huge chest for the liquor, a table, four chairs, an iron cot, and several heaps of cushions on the mat-covered floor. The place was scrupulously clean. A bullet-headed Swahili man-servant leaned in through one of the windows awaiting orders; he was silhouetted, black against a patch of starlit sky. Roddy tossed off a short drink and sat down. Max followed suit, pulling a wry face; he hated anything he felt was forced on him; he was one of those men who enjoy their own bounty and resent other people's.

"Tell him," he said, revealing fat lips as he wiped his yellowish mustache, "if only to convince you you're crazy. Go on, tell him."

"Tell me anything," said Kamarajes "Gents, I'm here to get a living. I don't eat sand. There's no luck in dirty money. But if you've a proposition—"

"We've a horse," said Roddy.

The Greek whistled softly to himself; his luminous, humorous eyes grew slightly narrower. "A horse—here?" he said. "You'd have something rarer now, if you took Irishmen to Chicago or Jews to New York. If you'd any kind of hop, for instance bhang now, I could sell that. I could use a gross of Jew's harps, or a couple of cases of women's make-up, I could pay a fair price for silk socks or wrist-watches, or alarm-clocks. Guns and ammunition, if they're good, are worth their weight in silver. I'll buy old magazines or Victrola records. But a horse—"

"It's a racehorse," said Roddy. "My friend here, Mr. Max Rector, very kindly offered to convey my horse and me to India. The yacht's engines have broken down; the chief engineer doesn't know yet how long repairs may take. The heat and close confinement are not doing the horse any good. I would like to bring him ashore, where he can get exercise. I noticed a scow tied to the jetty; we could use that to get him ashore; and we've plenty of fodder. How about it? Can I get permission and protection from the local shaikh?"

The Greek whistled softly again. "You'd better call him Sultan—Sultan Ayyub. He is touchy. What's it worth to me if I arrange it?"

"Fifty dollars," Max said promptly. His father had made the fortune. Max had increased and preserved it by inheriting prudence along with the dollars.

KAMARAJES concealed emotion by wiping his face with a sweat-cloth. "Have you liquor aboard?" he asked after a moment. "You're not a dry ship, are you? Sell me liquor at cost—all you have—and I'll treat you high, wide and handsome!"

He looked and spoke like a reasonably square shooter, his eyes were alert, not furtive. But Max awaited a nod from Roddy before he answered; he preferred to have someone to blame if necessary. Even so he was ungracious.

"See my steward in the morning. He might spare you a case or two of gin or something."

The Greek rolled himself a cigarette. "You want me to fix it with the Sultan for the horse to come ashore, and be protected, and have exercise—"

"Yes, and get aboard again safely, as soon as the yacht's engines have been repaired," said Roddy.

"I might manage it. Can you sell me ammunition?"

Max scowled. "With a British sloop likely to turn up? I don't want my yacht confiscated, thank you."

The Greek's smile suggested he knew plenty about British sloops, but also plenty about the shirt-fronts of respectability behind which beat the hearts of rogues.

"It wouldn't matter," he said, "if the ammunition don't fit. These guys can make a rifle from an iron bedpost. It's loaded shells they'll pay pearls for."

Max shut his mouth tight and scowled so that his glasses slipped down off his nose.

"Nothing doing. I will make you a present of three cases of gin. I would be breaking the law to sell you liquor."

Kamarajes leaned his weight on his hands on the table, glancing from one man to the other, studying faces. His own face revealed cunning and humor but not much malice—no more than a man needs for business purposes. He seemed to make up his mind to reserve Roddy for a later, subtler and perhaps more profitable effort He addressed himself to Max:

"Sir, I perceive you're a man of principle." He wiped the table with a bartender's sweep of the arm. "You wouldn't wrong man or woman, I can tell that."

"Not if I knew it," Max answered.

Roddy drew a sharp breath as if Max had hurt him. Kamarajes' eyes laughed; not being Max Rector's guest, he gave not a Red Sea damn for Max's smugness.

"I'll bet women get a square deal from you, mister."

"I didn't come here to deal with women," Max retorted. "If this is a bad-house—"

"It's a good-house, but a bad country," said Kamarajes.

"Anyhow, no women." Max had climbed on his high horse and proposed to remain there. It is a long time since the fall of Troy, but very few Greeks have forgotten how to put hollow horses to use. Roddy watched the Greek as if it were a poker game, but the Greek kept his eyes on Max.

"Sure a woman couldn't tempt you, Mister?"

"No," Max answered. "Get that into your head. I'm not interested."

Kamarajes turned his back to get the whiskey bottle from the shelf behind him. Roddy saw him glance at the Swahili servant framed in the open window. The Swahili nodded. Kamarajes faced them again and refilled the glasses.

"Good," he said. "That's all I wanted to know. Let the women alone and you're safe in any country. Here's luck, gents." He emptied his own glass at a gulp.

"Can I count on you," he looked straight at Max, "not to get me in dutch with the Sultan if I let you see a young girl that he keeps his special eye on?"

"Certainly," Max answered.

"Not if she falls for you?"

Max felt and looked flattered; Roddy was the younger man but not nearly so handsome. The Greek showed good sense.

Roddy after all, was a horsey pauper, sportily plucky and all that kind of thing, but unimportant. Affluence does stamp a man; it gives him responsibility and experience. But it stirs cupidity in women. The Greek was quite right. He glanced sideways at Roddy.

"I'd as soon meet a rattlesnake as a woman in this place, but bring her in, if you want to. I don't mind. She shan't get into mischief with us, believe me."

"That's a promise?"

"Yes, for both of us."

Roddy lighted a cigarette. A child could have understood the gesture; but Max was no child; he was born a millionaire; other people had to keep his promises or get left.

The Greek turned to the Swahili. "Al Sitt Lillilee," he ordered.

The Swahili vanished. Hardly a second later the latch clicked on the door between the two wide windows.



ALL doors are dramatic even in the day-time; that one of packing case pine, between two windows that framed starlit night, appeared to turn a page of mystery. Max Rector's idea of genuine drama was the rise and fall of stock market prices, but it stirred even him. It opened slowly, as if of its own volition. There was nothing. Then she stood there, as if she had come from nowhere, born of the star sprayed night behind her. With yellow lamplight on her face, she looked like a lithograph framed by the jetsam lumber of the door-posts. There was no guessing her age—eighteen—nineteen—twenty—perhaps older.

"Gypsy!" Max said after a moment, half-contemptuously. Like a roulette ball, his thought had to hurry as soon as it could into one of the regulation funk-holes. Having called her a Gypsy, he knew now what to expect, and it wasn't dividends.

Roddy corrected him. "White, by gad!"

Knowing a good bit about Gypsies is part of a professional horseman's necessary education. This girl was not one—definitely not. She had a Gypsy's stance—motionless rhythm. Lillilee? Lee might be an English Gypsy's name. But Lilly? Her face was pure Nordic. Ice-experience was in it, softened by laughter and tropical sun. She might be even Scandinavian; she had blue eyes. That Gypsy look was assumed, or perhaps imposed by association. Roddy stood up. Max remained seated. The Greek watched them, standing back to the wall, with his foot on one rung of a chair.

"Don't forget yourself," Max warned in a loud whisper. "Remember, we promised." It was quite clear what he thought of any girl discovered in that place.

Roddy, after that one explosive contradiction of Max's guess, stood silent. He knew enough to be puzzled, but little enough to be certain of only one thing: that the girl was not the Greek's property. He felt almost sure she belonged to herself; she looked so confidently curious and sure of her own right to opinions. Nevertheless, she could not be free or she would certainly not be in Zakkum, unveiled, desirable, young. Armed sloops patrol that coastline in a constant vigil against slave-runners. But there are five hundred thousand slaves in the world; slaves do reach Arabian markets, and some of them like it. The Swahili servant probably had been a slave; perhaps the Greek had freed him. Was the girl one? White female slaves are not unknown. They are not even rare. They bring enormous prices. But at eighteen or twenty they have usually lost even the look of white ancestry.

She stood looking from one to the other, unsmiling, evidently not embarrassed, but as keenly observant as if she were buying horses. She was not dressed like an Arab woman. Roddy noticed an American mail order catalogue and two or three thumbed old copies of Vogue on one of the shop shelves. The flowing line of a thin yellow silk shawl thrown loosely over a white smock made her look tall at first glance, but she was actually less than middle height and slim, healthily sun-burned and as leanly strong as a dancer in training. Perhaps not really beautiful, thought Roddy, or was she? Certainly not pretty—surely fascinating. She knew what to do with her hands, which is rare except among the thoroughly savage or over-civilized, and she was evidently neither one nor the other. It occurred to Roddy that the Greek was just as curious as himself as to how she would behave.

Max broke the silence. "What does she do?" he asked. "Dance the hootchikootch?"

"She does whatever she likes," said Kamarajes. "The last man who tried to abuse Lilly Lee got his feet beaten to jelly with the ribs of date-palms. If anyone tried a second time he'd be buried up to the neck in the sand with his face to the sun; and he'd be smeared with a little honey, although honey's expensive and the flies in these parts don't need much tempting. That's why I warned you. She enjoys the Sultan's special favor."

THE girl smiled suddenly. She looked like a boy then, with her shapely, alert looking head and dark bobbed hair; the gloom behind her had made it impossible to see what her hair was like until she walked straight toward Roddy. She offered a strong, sunburned hand. He shook it. Then she sat on the table and threw off the filmy yellow drape; that made her look not at all like a boy, but even more self-confident. There was nothing defeated about her appearance. She had the teeth of a healthy young savage and a tongue that was nearly as red as her lipstick. Her dark-blue eyes were frankly inquisitive and bright with good humor. She was not in the least ashamed to show her bare legs, and they were good to look at. Max studied them, frowning, but he kept on looking.

"Well?" she said, smiling at Roddy. She was moist from the heat, but she smelt as wholesome as a weaned calf.

Roddy hardly knew what to say, but it is a safe rule in Arabia not to begin by asking questions. He felt for the range from behind conventional banality:

"It's hot," he said. "Phew!" Then he turned his chair toward her and sat down, wiping his face on a damp handkerchief.

"Yes, I heard all that through the window," she answered—fluent English, confused accent. "You have a horse. The horse is on a ship. The ship is broken. The engine-driver says you wait until he mends it. Who is that man?"

Max used his thumb to raise the ends of his mustache, hesitating between a smile and a frown. Roddy came to his rescue:

"He owns the yacht."

"Yes, I heard that, but who is he? Why doesn't he signal for help? Is he afraid of the ships that might come? What has he been doing? Running guns? I heard talk about guns."

"No, I haven't," said Max. He wiped his glasses. "What business is that of yours, Miss? Who are you?"

"My name is Lilly Lee. I have a radio. I pick up Jerusalem, Barcelona, Paris, Dresden, Berlin, London. Haven't you a radio on your ship? All ships have them. Can't you send an S.O.S.?"

Max tried to talk down to her. "If I wish to.** He had too recently faced a public investigation to enjoy a witness chair or even a suggestion of one. He had come away to forget such horrors. But the girl made him feel timid, so he looked pompous. She was purposely making him angry, and Max knew it.

"Why don't you wish to?" she demanded.

"I carry a crew that can make repairs."

"Stingy, eh? You don't wish to pay—what do you call it?—salvation?"

"Salvage," Max corrected. "Do you call that stingy?" He tried to seem amused, but his face betrayed him.

"Stingy? I heard you offer Paulos fifty dollars. That is how many pounds? How many francs? Then you said you would give him three cases of hootch—three only. Do you call that generous?"

"I don't carry hootch on my yacht. What do you take me for, a bootlegger?" Max exploded. "Where did you learn English? It's a pity they didn't teach you to mind your own business—and decent manners at the same time."

"HAH!" She smiled at Roddy; the change of expression made her look simultaneously five years older and five years younger—young with mischief, aged by obscene experience. It must have been obscene. She swore a streak of scandalous Arabic, then barrack-room French, measuring off the last joint of the little-finger of her left hand, pointing it at Max. "You look haughty, but you don't know that much! I have met people like you, and I know lots or sorts of manners." Then she turned again toward Roddy, changing her tone of voice.

"Why have you your horse on his ship?"

Roddy fell in with her mood as the likeliest means of changing it. She might talk if he told her the truth.

"To get the horse to India."

"But why on his ship?"

"I was broke. Do you know what being broke means?"

She chuckled. "Don't I! Will you sell the horse in India?"

"No. Race him."

"Is he a jump horse or a flat horse?"

"Both," Roddy answered. "He has won as a steeplechaser and on the flat, too."

She appeared pleased. "You ride?" she demanded.

Roddy nodded. She looked him over—head to heel, shoulders, hands—

"Yes," she said, "you ride. That other man doesn't. He plays cards. He eats too much. He buys things and sneers at the people who make them. You will go from here to India? Will you put in at Aden on the way?"

Roddy glanced at Max. Max shook his head. She seemed to approve. But she was not satisfied yet.

"Why not Aden?"

"Quarantine," Max answered disgustedly. "They'd keep me anchored there a fortnight, after having visited this damned hole. Why? Why do you ask?"

She ignored him, but she seemed pleased to know he was not going to Aden. "If it were your ship," she said, smiling at Roddy.

"It isn't." Roddy almost shuddered at the thought of owning such a monstrous encumbrance. But he felt a sudden impulse to soothe Max Rector's feelings by stressing his own unimportance. Max was after all his host. "All I own in the world," he said, "is a horse and about a thousand dollars." He nodded his head toward Max. "There's your Prince Bountiful." He had almost said butter-and-egg man.

She continued to ignore Max. But she spoke to Roddy as one insider to another:

"You may bring your horse ashore just as soon as you wish."

"Thanks," said Roddy. He was not going to let anything in Arabia surprise him, but he was still skeptical. "Can you give permission?"

"I do anything I like, except to go away from Zakkum."

"She is watched," said Kamarajes. "But she has protection. Oh, boy!"

"And I have these," she added.

She produced a knife and a pearl-handled automatic, from somewhere up under her smock. The knife was a beautiful, slim-bladed thing with an ivory handle. She appeared to wish Max to notice them.

"Do you ever use them?" Roddy asked, wondering why she should think Max dangerous.

"Oh, yes."

Kamarajes chuckled. "She is watched, I tell you." He walked to the window and leaned out. Almost instantly a man peered in, not an Arab, though he wore the Arabian headdress. His coal-black face had the seldom mistakable, sexless concentration of a eunuch's. He had a wide scar from a cut that had severed his nose, but in spite of the disfigurement the face was not unpleasant; they were a sort of old nurse's features, skeptical but tolerant. He strolled away, smiling. Kamarajes, with his back to the window, grew communicative, his pock-marked face betraying, but not explaining some secret motive.

"Gypsy Lee brought her here. That was during the War, when she was little." He rolled another cigarette, watching Lilly Lee's face. "He was not her father—"

"How do you know?" the girl interrupted. "Nobody knows."

Kamarajes shrugged his shoulders. "And the woman said to be her mother wasn't her mother. She died of thieving. If she had stolen from men—" He shrugged again. "But she stole from women, so there was real trouble. Those other fool Gypsies stuck up for the thief, so the whole damned lot got taken for a ride—all except this one. They were ridden to the hell tree. But she was a little girl. And she isn't a Gypsy. I don't know what she is. Neither does she. I think they stole her somewhere. I took her to school in Jerusalem, but the Sultan stopped paying the bills—"

"You're a liar," she interrupted.

"Well," said Kamarajes, "do you want me to tell the truth?"

"No. I will tell it."

SHE was having a marvelous time, enjoying mid-stage. She seemed sure she could manage the Greek. She seemed to wish to make a good impression on Roddy. It was a puzzle why she should treat Max so contemptuously, unless she saw through his morality to the selfishness beneath. Max had been stodgily moral about women ever since a patient mistress turned up at his father's funeral and claimed common law rights. He still resented what that had cost him.

"Let's go back to the ship," Max said. He yawned to conceal irritation. "It's late. There's nothing amusing here. I'm anxious to see how they're coming along in the engine-room."

"You go," the girl retorted. "Leave this owner-of-a-horse" (she used an Arabian word) "to talk to me. Paulos shall lend you a guide."

Kamarajes seconded the motion. "Sure," he said, moving a kerosene lamp so that his own face should be more in shadow.

Max sagged back into his chair, looking sulkily suspicious. "Oh, well. There's no risk of bad weather; I guess the yacht's all right. If we take quinine we may escape malaria. Let's hope we catch nothing worse." He slapped at a mosquito.

The girl stuck the point of her knife in the table and flicked it until it thrummed. Then she faced Roddy and took up her story where the Greek had left off.

"It was Sultan Ayyub's father who paid for me at the school, although it was Paulos who took me to El Kudz*."

* Jerusalem.

Roddy interrupted: "Why Jerusalem?"

"Because I was to be brought up an unbeliever but knowing plenty. Nobody knows enough; but I know more than any Arab woman."

"It was easy to send money to Jerusalem," Kamarajes explained. "She could go to school there without forgetting what she learned here. When they educate girls in Arabia it has to be practical. Arabs say a man can learn laws and make women obey. But a girl, if she gets an education, and only about one in a hundred thousand does, is supposed to learn how to break rules and get away with it. Moslem women have to wear the burka. That's like prohibition. Lilly Lee would have been a moll behind a burka. She'd have been no more good than any other moll. As it is, she's okay. I took her to a little mission run by Syrian Christians. Money talks; so they didn't."

"And I ran away," said the girl.

"At once?" asked Roddy.

"Oh, no. I stayed three years, until I'd learned enough of that stuff. I have tried to forget most of it, except the three Rs. After I ran away, Paulos put the money for my schooling into his own pocket—didn't you, Paulos?"

"Should I have paid it to the mish'naries—for nothing?" he retorted. "All that money?"

"Sultan Abu Nakib died and his son Ayyub succeeded him," she continued. "Ayyub found out about me and about what Paulos had done with the money. Ayyub isn't a strong man. So he isn't merciful. He beat Paulos and put him in prison. But I didn't know about that. I had gone away with Gypsies, because I liked them. They didn't tell me what I mustn't do but what I can do if I learn how. I'm good at learning. So I went with them all through Europe—Syria, Turkey, Roumania, Hungary, Germany, France, England—up to mischief always. Sometimes bad mischief. Not always lucky. But they taught me to dance very well and to sing not so well; and I learned lots of languages—until we got into trouble in England and I was sent to a reform school. That was worse than Zakkum! Much worse! But I ran away when Czarbo and the rest of them were let out of prison; they weren't in long—nine months—they'd only stolen—and I learned good English—didn't I?—can't I talk it?"

Max looked as though he thought she talked too well. He refused to be interested—blew his nose and kept his face averted.

"Go on. I'm listening," said Roddy. "You will listen," said Max, "to a tale too many one of these days."

THE girl stared at Max a moment and then continued:

"Czarbo had been training me for the stage. We followed circuses and country fairs, but he always said the stage is the thing to aim at. So he trained me strictly, and he used to beat me, but not often. He was too old, and I don't think he liked me enough to beat me too much. And besides, I'm not a Gypsy and he knew that I wouldn't stand what Gypsies will. Czarbo taught me how to get money, and yet never to give men what they're trying to buy. He taught about morals and the difference between hypocrisy and good sense. Czarbo meant to sell me sooner or later; I knew that. When they let him out of prison he decided it was time for us to go to America. But when we got there they wouldn't admit us. We were sent back, and when we got to England they wouldn't let us land there either. But Czarbo had money enough to take us to France, and the French let us in, because Czarbo bribed someone. And then we were broke. Czarbo thought it time to sell me, though he didn't say so. He was afraid there'd be trouble about it, because I'm not a Gypsy and he knew I'd raise hell. I don't choose to be sold. Czarbo himself had taught me why not."

Max snorted.

"Carry on," said Roddy.

"I always do carry on, as you call it. But it isn't always simple. I was carrying on in Marseilles when Dimitros found me. I was dancing in a cabaret near the docks, and singing on the docks when steamers came. Czarbo was dead, and it was difficult to keep the nervis of the Vieux Port from making me a mere piece of meat in their market. I had to make them fight about me. They fought with knives and slew each other. But Czarbo's women—there were three of them—had gone; I didn't like them, and they didn't like me. I had learned I couldn't live alone in Marseilles when Dimitros saw me."

"Who is Dimitros?" asked Roddy.

"Paulos' partner. He escaped when Ay-rub—"

"You mean Sultan Ayyub?"

"Yes, when Sultan Ayyub beat Paulos and put him in prison. Dimitros said Paulos would die unless I went to Zakkum and explained things. Ayyub would tire of feeding him and would let him starve, or perhaps tie him to the hell-tree. But Dimitros begged me not to go back. He said I'd probably forgotten Arabic, and I'd be put in Ayyub's harem or something worse. He said he'd make my fortune in Marseilles. I didn't wish to be sold by Dimitros. Some day I myself will sell me, for my own price."

"How much?" Max asked.

She ignored him, except that she turned away a little. "So, I came to Zakkum to help Paulos."

"How did you get here?" Roddy asked her.

"Oh, that wasn't difficult. I have acted boy all over Europe. I used to ride Czarbo's horses, when he had any. I used to help Czarbo to steal horses; that was how we got into trouble in England. I stole five hundred francs from Dimitros, and I gave them to a Frenchman to smuggle me on a big passenger ship to Alexandria. I nearly got caught in Alexandria; I had to hide amid drums of gasoline on the dock. But I got away all right. I told a rich Jew that my mother was dead. Jews love their mothers. That Jew paid my fare on the train to Cairo, and his wife gave me food for the journey. Then I begged my way to Sawakin, by pretending I had been lost and left behind by a family of pilgrims on their way to Mecca."

"How did you cross the sea to Zakkum?"

"The way the slaves all get here. That's simple. Don't you know about it? I offered myself to a dealer in slaves. If you cost them nothing, and you look good, you can always bargain to be taken to the market you prefer. They might get into very bad trouble if they broke faith with a slave who knows the law, and isn't afraid of the police. I had to let that dealer know I'm a woman, because that made me perfectly safe. Spoiled goods bring low prices. And besides, he was an Arab, from Makalia, and they're good with women. After I was safe on the dhow I told him why I wished to go to Zakkum. He had ten other slaves in his dhow, and those he sold in Zakkum, but he refused to sell me. He was a good man. All his slaves were fat and happy when they landed. He let me make my own terms, although, of course, he made his, too. He made a profit. That's how Paulos got out of Ayyub's prison. I have been here three years."

"Do you like it?" Roddy asked her.

"I hate it. But I can't get away."

"You've only to appeal to a consul," said Max, in a voice like a banker refusing a loan. Max could make common sense sound hateful.

SHE stared at him for a moment and then answered scornfully: "Which consul? Of what country? Where is my country?"

"Any consul would report you to the League of Nations."

"Oh, yes? What would they do? Marry me to the Prince of Wales?"

Max glared at Kamarajes. "What's wrong with you, that you don't take her away from here? Of what country are you a citizen?"

"None," said Kamarajes. "I can't get a passport."

"Why not? How did you get to Jerusalem?"

"Any o' your business?" the Greek asked.

Max stood up, shoving his chair away noisily. "Come along," he said. "Haven't you had enough? Let's get back to the yacht."

"What were the terms you made?" asked Roddy. He made a gesture to Max to wait a minute.

"Paulos out of prison. Me to have my liberty in Zakkum and be Ayyub's—"

"Spy," said Kamarajes.

"Until Ayyub chooses me a man agreeable to him. But I must also agree. He can't give me unless I'm willing."

"Would you break the bargain?" Roddy asked her.

She nodded. "Ayyub broke his."

"He did not," said Kamarajes. There was pride in his voice.

"Well, he tried to. But I'm popular. I raised hell. Ayyub didn't dare. So now he wants me to go to Mahmoud ben Amara, who is a fat barfush* with a harem in Mecca and makes money cheating pilgrims. Ayyub owes him lots of money. But that was not in the bargain either."

* Blackguard.

"We can't interfere," said Max. "I don't suppose the law can help you. By your own account, you're here of your own free will. If you're as popular as you say, your Arab friends should help you."

"They want me here," she answered and turned her back to him.

"Well, it seems you made your own bed," said Max. He walked up to Roddy and touched his shoulder. "Are you coming?

"How about the horse?" asked Roddy.

THE girl glanced at Kamarajes. "First thing in the morning," said the Greek. "I'll be out there myself with the scow. Another drink, gents? No? All right. Two of my men shall see you to the beach. If you've any old newspapers or magazines—"

"Perhaps my steward has some." Max unbolted the door. He jerked it open. "Are you coming, Roddy?"

Roddy shook hands with Lilly Lee. "Were you telling us lies?" he asked, smiling.

She looked straight in his eyes. "You know dam-well I wasn't."

"Any woman who wants to be is safe with Arabs," said Kamarajes. "Arabs are all right But it can't last forever. And then what?"

"See you in the morning," Roddy answered. He didn't know "what." He followed Max. Two of the Greek's black servants accompanied them with lanterns as far as the beach, where the boat's crew waited. Max sulked until they reached the yacht, half a mile out from the shore. When they reached the dock he blew up.

"Nolan, you're crazy. You're an example of perpetual motion—out of one trouble and into another. I believe you'd go long of hot air if a crook had the nerve to ask you money for it You wouldn't be broke if you weren't a madman. Dammit, man, you swallowed that girl's patter like a rube at a circus side-show. Couldn't you see she was playing you?"

Roddy had seen that perfectly. He leaned against the bulwark rail, looked up at the stars and then cupped his hands to light a cigarette. What was the use of saying anything? A man whose entire fortune consists of a heat-crazed stallion and about a thousand dollars can't afford to be quarrelsome, and he was not a quarrelsome fellow anyhow. But a disagreeable man with a huge yacht is in poor case too, unless he likes to be lonely. It is easier to fill a hotel with good companions, especially after one's financial secrets have been scornfully investigated and exposed to public derision. Max was sensible enough to guess that Roddy Nolan might prefer to take his chance in Zakkum rather than be hectored, no matter how much he needed hospitality. He changed his tenor:

"If you'd had as many women try to blackmail you as I've had, you'd be more suspicious. Roddy, my boy, you're too good-natured and too trusting. Take my advice and keep out of trouble."

"Yes, you have trouble enough," said Roddy.

That smoothed Max; he loved the subtle flattery of being told his troubles were a Titan's. He became grossly condescending:

"Fall for her, if you choose, old fellow. I'm no lady-killer, but I know what the biological urge is. But don't be a sucker. Don't get that knife in your back. Keep your eye on that Greek. Above all, don't bring the girl to the yacht. She might make endless trouble. International law is dangerous stuff to monkey with. There isn't exactly a Mann Act on the high seas, but—"

"Oh, the hell with her," said Roddy. What he meant was, the hell with Max Rector, but he had to get along with the man somehow, and it was useless to try to explain his view that only those whom Max could call suckers enjoy life. Genuine suckers are rare, but have few regrets. Not being greedy, they don't have to bury their greed later on in the ashes of disillusion. A proper sportsman, according to Roddy's view, expects less profit than entertainment, but gets plenty of that; it doesn't trouble him much to be called a sucker by the sort who think that fear is righteous and greed is principle. Roddy had frequently betted his boots on a hunch, and had frequently lost. But he also had frequently won, and he had seldom been bored, except by such people as Max. He had a horse, a thousand dollars, his health and the ability to enjoy them all. But he wanted to live to enjoy them. He knew that the biological urge is a short means to a sure and dreadful death, for a foreigner on the Arabian coast-line. He despised Max for being such an ass as not to know that.

He strolled aft for a look at his horse, stalled in a huge crate between the motor-driven ventilators. Max went down to the engine-room, to insult the engineer with platitudes and to annoy the sweat-wet crew, who toiled in the glare of electric light amid dismantled engines. Roddy gave the horse a carrot, talked to him a bit, and then sat on the top of the horse-box, gazing at the stars, wondering why, in a world of about two billion people and a hundred and ninety-six million square miles, he, Roddy Nolan, should meet such a girl as Lilly Lee, in such a place as Zakkum, because of a broken-down Diesel-electric engine. Is there such a thing as destiny? Or is everything chance? There are traps that leave devilish little to chance; he knew that. He could see the bait. He could guess the trap. But why? What for?

"Well," he remarked to himself at last. "If the stars know anything, they don't tell a fellow like me. I guess the only way to find out is to bite and sec what happens."


MAX had few respectable gifts, not even a real flair for navigation (which is very different from seamanship). His genius was for what he called "the conservation of resources;" other people called it hogging dollars. Master as well as owner of the Blue Heron the trick, as he would have called it, of commanding respect from junior officers eluded him as completely as the art of making friends and keeping them. Of the three certificated officers who had signed in New York for a voyage around the world, not one remained. Max had had to pick up substitutes in Marseilles and Alexandria, and he had had to take pot luck at that. All three were already insulted and dissatisfied. Worse yet, his original engineer had told him, in Alexandria, to hire the Devil, if the Devil felt like being made a fool of; he had gone ashore with his belongings, and had raised hell at the consulate. Max had had to "compensate" him. After several days' delay he had found a middle-aged Scotsman out of a job; he didn't like him or trust him, but he had to take him; and either MacNamara didn't thoroughly know diesel-electric engines, or else he had obeyed Max too implicitly against his better judgment. Anyhow, the engines were in a devil of a mess. Daybreak found the sleepless MacNamara, wild-eyed and half-naked, interrupting Max in silk pajamas at his morning tea on the bridge deck.

"Progress?" Max asked. Before he had shaved he was always in a supercilious mood.

To raise your eyebrows at a hard-bitten Scotsman is about as tactless as to stick out your tongue at an Irish cop. The dregs of MacNamara's suavity, if he ever had any, went overboard along with the sweat that he stripped off his brow with messy fingers.

"Aye. It depends what's progress. I have r-reached a deceesion to warm ye to tak' a tow, if ye can get it—back to Suez, I'd say. Come a westerrly, ye'd have a bad lee. Come a southerrly, ye'd lie worrse. Come a northerly, ye'd drag as sure as death an' taxes."

"How long?" Max asked.

"Ten days—meenimim. An' that's provided I can keep the crew contented wi' a bonus. They're a puir lot o' Bolsheviki—verra ineffeecient—an' they're feelin' the heat. They've the right o' it, claiming overtime, and—"

Max interrupted angrily. "They signed on to work, not to take a vacation."

"Aye. But they'll tak' no imposeetion. Ye'll gie a bonus, or ye're up against a deefficulty. That's my opeenion. Man, we've to tak' down an' reassemble half Schenectady. An' marrk those Arabs. It 'ud cost ye less to tak' a tow to Suez, than to fall foul o' such heathen as inhabit these parrts. Are ye insured against a cutthroat?"

The scow was coming, towed by two rowboats, surrounded by about twenty more. In the stern of the scow Kamarajes waved a slouch hat to Roddy Nolan, who already had the horse-box slung to his liking. All sorts of gadgets down below had been disconnected and there was no power available for the winch at the moment, but Roddy had made friends with the mate, so half the crew were standing by to man the derrick and lower the big crate overside. Roddy, in an effort to calm the stallion's mood, was up on the top of the box with the hose, but the water came up warm and sticky with little comfort in it. "The Prophet" was trying to kick the box to pieces. Having discovered very early in the voyage that the sailor, who volunteered as groom for the extra pay, was afraid of him, the horse had turned so savage that Roddy himself had to do the grooming and cleaning out, until Max, in disgust, had hired a Port Said Gypsy. But the Gypsy was also afraid, and had deserted at Suez. He was supposed to have jumped overboard after they put to sea; his name was still on the manifest, but the desertion had not been logged; Max had told the second officer to make the entry, but had given him such a hell of a bawling out for something else that the second officer had simply forgotten to do it. Max loathed the sight of the second officer; he had just ordered him off the bridge. To see Roddy, after all his guest, doing the work of a hired sailor, made him furious.

"Dammit," he exploded. "It's a holdup. Bolsheviki is right. These engines are supposed to be the last word—fool-proof."

"Aye. But they're no proof against temperamental improprieties."

"I believe it's a case of sabotage. However, I'll have to pay time and a half, I suppose. Blackmail, I call it. It's up to you to sec they earn the money."

"And a leetle liquor? It's bad in preenciple, but verra good practice if y'r conscience isn't over strong f'ry'r diplomacy."

Max scowled. "I will tell the steward."

"Mind ye," said MacNamara, "I can give ye power for the radio, an' my advice is to use that an' beg a tow to Suez. It may be costly, if we run into a head wind, but let the underwriters pay. We can patch her up here after a fashion. Aye. Ye can make Bombay, I don't doot, if the Arabs let ye. But ye don't know Arabs. Ye'd be in a predeecament if they discovered how helpless ye are."

THE word "helpless" enraged Max so that he couldn't think except that MacNamara probably was scheming to work a commission from the repair-yard in Suez. On that awful morning when he had sat in a witness-chair to be investigated on oath, a federal attorney had called him a "helpless product of chance and cupidity, quailing like a coward from the public scorn," merely because he had "not remembered" something or other. All the papers had carried it along with his picture. He had hardly cared to face even his stenographer. The surreptitious grins at the club had been unbearable. If he should take a tow to Suez now the papers would yelp with glee about it. He had come away to escape publicity, not to court it Besides, he wasn't helpless. He resented the imputation.

"The Arabs are all right," he said sulkily. "I made the necessary overtures to them last night. It's merely a question of being diplomatic. Mind your own business."

"Verra weel," said MacNamara. "But ye'll kindly log my statement of opeenion. And I tak' the liberty o' recommending ye to let none o' the crew go ashore."

MacNamara went below, fuming. Then came Kamarajes, with a slouch hat in his hand and a genial grin, climbing to the bridge-deck uninvited. He looked overexposed against the blue sky; on his face were deep dark shadows that made his smile look sinister.

"Good morning, Mister. Three cases of gin, you promised, and some old magazines—"

Max jumped up from the deck-chair. "Get off my bridge!" He suddenly remembered then that the Greek might prove useful, so he changed the tone of his arrogance. "My good man, don't you know it isn't customary to walk up to a yacht's bridge without being asked? I'll overlook it this time, but don't do it again. Go back to that scow, and I'll have your needs attended to. And by the way, while you're about it, tell those Arabs to keep away. You understand, I want no visitors. Tell 'em to keep off."

The Greek bowed beautifully and retired to overtake MacNamara and oil his way into the engineer's good graces. Max rang for the steward. When he had given his orders he watched Roddy on the top of the horse-box being lowered overside. He wondered how a man could find amusement in such undignified gymnastics. How could he laugh and enjoy himself, with nothing but a second-rate racehorse and about a thousand dollars between him and destitution? He'd get sunstroke if he wasn't careful.

He'd end in a poorhouse—not a doubt of it, unless he broke his neck first. Gentleman, yes; but what's a gentleman? Happy-go-lucky and popular, yes; but what's the use, unless a man knows how to get work done for him. Imagine a gentleman grooming his own horse. Not a bad chap—stupid—bound to lose out. It was perfectly obvious to Max why some men have no money.

Roddy waved from the scow. He pointed to the gin and magazines and made a foolish crack about The Prophet needing cigars, too, and an armchair. Max called back to him through a megaphone to be sure to keep women and bed-bugs off the yacht, and not to fall for any con game. "Don't even tell 'em your age," he shouted.

Kamarajes, wiping his mouth, made a run for the scow. The scow began slowly little more than drifting toward Zakkum, behind laboring tow-boats, over an oily sapphire sea on which the weed made parallel streaks of mauve and iodine. Roddy used binoculars to study out the problem of getting the horse to dry land. That ruinous jetty had looked good enough in darkness, but he could see now that it was fit for nothing but to dry fish-nets. Its derrick was a ruin of rusted iron and rotten wood.

"We will lay planks from the scow to the beach," said Kamarajes, noticing Roddy's frown. "What have you in that bag?"


"No, in that other bag."

"Oh, that? Mosquito netting. Flies 'ud drive The Prophet crazy."

"Oh! Is his name The Prophet?" The Greek went into roars of laughter. "That is a hell of a good joke! By Allah, that will make these Arabs cockeyed! I will tell them that you lead The Prophet by the nose—oh, ha-ha-ha-hah!"

HE BEGAN to tell it to the scow's crew and to shout it to the rowers. Arabs don't laugh at a joke of that sort; they take it seriously, mulling in their minds its subtleties and implications.

"They will tell that to each other all night long," said Kamarajes. "There is nothing they enjoy more than to sit on the roof with a pipe and argue is it blasphemous, or is it a good omen."

As they neared the beach the gruesome ugliness of Zakkum solidified out of the haze and shimmered in refracted sunlight. The inevitable yelling conference began among the boatmen. Each of them knew exactly how to get the horse ashore, but no two agreed. The conversation became as vivid as the beach stench, most of it taking the form of interruptions to advice yelled by someone else at Kamarajes, who ignored it, watching Roddy.

The scow was a left-over from the World War; it had very likely been a pontoon in the Suez Canal, and how it ever reached Zakkum was one of those inscrutable mysteries that in the end perish unsolved or give birth to impossible legend. For a wonder, it was decked; the deck was in fair preservation; the horse-box stood erect like a house on a scow in the Hudson River. The rowers having ceased their labor, for the more amusing effort of obscenely abusing one another, the scow swung beam on, about fifty yards from the beach. There was a crowd on the beach; it also had plenty to say and lots of lung-power, yelling contradictory advice, amid swarming flies whose drone was like the hum of billions of bees. It looked like an unpropitious landing place for a horse that had the temper of a dozen devils in him.

"Leave it to me," said Kamarajes.

"Sure," said Roddy. "You arrange it."

Kamarajes raised his hand and filled his lungs to harangue the crowd. Roddy slipped a bridle on The Prophet, opened the front of the box and mounted bareback as the stallion came ramping forth. The feel of Roddy's heels in his flanks acted like a hammer on dynamite. He reared skyward, lunged out with his forefeet, bucked, took the bit in his teeth and went over the end of the scow as if the fifty yards of sea between scow and beach was the Brook at Aintree.

No matter what theorists say, the Red Sea sharks are dangerous, even close inshore. Roddy knew that, but he slipped off to give the horse more buoyancy, and swam, bare-headed, watching his chance to re-mount in a hurry as soon as the horse's feet touched bottom. He almost missed it; the horse shied away from him. But an Arab waded in waist-deep and gave him a leg-up as The Prophet paused for one second and then lit out for the dry land in a plunging gallop. There was no sense whatever in trying to call a halt in that torturing swarm of beach-flies; in spite of the stallion's drenched hide they were stinging him already—stinging him frantic. Roddy gave him his head. They went up the principal street of Zakkum like Disaster on unshod feet.

There nearly was disaster. Two kneeling camels, rump to rump but overlapping, loaded with piled hides, blocked the full width of the narrow street. The man in charge of them did exactly the wrong thing; he snatched the camels' heads and tried to make room to pass. The Prophet reached them as they started swaying to their feet. He leaped them, loads and all. For the sheer excitement of feeling his legs at work, he lashed out and kicked one camel sideways into the other, so that they both rolled in the dust. Then on up-street past Kamarajes' place with a couple of dozen yelping curs in full pursuit.

Roddy sat still and looked around him. Seven furlongs ought to be about the limit for a horse so badly out of training; The Prophet would stop himself in a minute or two; he was blowing already. But the length of the city was much less than seven furlongs, and they were still going strong when they came to the Gate of the Doomed and went under it in a cloud of dust. It was an arch of stone and stucco, patched with gray mud, with broken mud walls to right and left. Vultures used it as a roost; as the horse galloped under the arch they took wing—ink-blots against azure. There was a slaughter-yard beyond, with more vultures; and beyond that stood the naked hell-tree, as white as bone in the early sunlight, vultures on every branch. Then the dismal looking cemetery, enclosed by a broken wall. Beyond that, desert—aching gray-white solitude as far as treeless hills on the horizon.


DOTS on the desert, the size of inserts, followed by a dust-haze, the dots growing larger. The Prophet slowed to a canter—presently to a walk. Roddy let him walk, patting his neck. The distant dots became horses—fifteen—twenty. Something followed in a cloud of blown sand. It looked like a field-gun. Roddy knew that Arabs have an instant prejudice in favor of anyone whose seat on a horse is superb. He might be vain about his horsemanship, but he was not conceited. He could ride, and he knew it. He knew Arabs would immediately perceive that, before anything else. True, The Prophet was blown; he had no saddle; Roddy was still wet and had lost his hat; but those were trifles. He made the stallion show off, until the Arabs reined their horses and their leader came slowly toward him.

He was a sly-faced man with a scant beard, in a yellow and white striped cloak and kuffiyeh, on a gray mare. He had a golden dagger at his waist and the last word in modern rifles in his right hand. There could be no doubt who he was—the Sultan Ayyub, on his way home, followed by his Ford car. It was drawn by four camels, and it probably contained some ladies of the harem, but they were well hidden behind awnings.

"Gasoline," thought Roddy, "is the right sugar for this canary." There were several drums of the stuff on the Blue Heron's deck, in reserve for the use of the tender; he wondered whether Max would part with any of it, but he knew Max's moods of stupid parsimony.

Stately greeting. "Peace in the name of the Most High. Peace be upon you. In the name of the Prophet, God's peace." Compliments invented in the dawn of time, by people to whom words are the mask of thought, the grace of courtesy—or else vile beyond limit of possible deed. An Arab's blasphemy is as imaginative as his compliments. They dismounted bowing lordly to each other. One of the Sultan's escort brought a head-doth, so that Roddy might cover his head and be unembarrassed; only a slave should be bareheaded. There was curiosity and much discussion of The Prophet, none had seen such a huge horse. He was unbelievable. One man, feeling the brute's tremendous jumping muscles, narrowly missed death from a fiery irritable hind-hoof.

Roddy told his story, in remembered Arabic that grew more fluent as he used it. And because one horseman thaws out to another and forgets prudence, he spoke of The Prophet's victories on the turf. But he spoke, too, of the yacht's predicament, not forgetting to praise Max Rector as a prince of good fellows, a father of honor, whom all men praise, whose fame precedes him over land and sea.

The Sultan nodded. He too, used time-honored phrases. All that he had was not good enough. Let the effendi only dignify him with his company as far as the palace; there the horse of horses should be stabled, groomed and fed as if he were that very stallion that Allah's Prophet rode to Heaven.

Roddy felt he was getting the breaks. This was better than being beholden to Kamarajes. True, it was likely to prove expensive; he would have to make a valuable present to the Sultan. But the horse would have expert handling by men who have forgotten more about horses than the West ever knew. Max could lie at anchor safely until the yacht's engines were repaired. There would be no risk of piracy, since friendship was now established. Roddy joined the cohort, breathing dust in their midst as they cantered toward the city.

He was not particularly worried when two of the Sultan's escort led The Prophet through a great gate in a white wall. He would have preferred to enter and see the horse stabled, but it didn't matter. To have insisted might have been a breach of etiquette; to keep the good start going smoothly seemed all-important for the moment.

The Sultan invited him into a courtyard lined with tired geraniums in tin cans. There was a waterless fountain, one date palm, and a savage baboon on a chain. Roddy and the Sultan drank coffee together from tiny silver cups. They ate dates from a silver dish, and stodgy pastry made with honey. The Sultan lent him a beautiful she-mule to ride away on, and then dismissed him with the gracious formula:

"Deprive me not too long of thy presence."


NOW that kind of she-mule is known as a Baghlah, and is notoriously difficult to ride. Perhaps the loan of the glossily lovely, long-eared illegitimate offspring of Balaam's ass was meant as a compliment to Roddy's horsemanship. A slave accompanied the animal; he was supposed to run ahead and clear the way, but he lagged far in the rear until the mule, which did everything except lie down and roll, reached a crowd at a cross-street. The crowd scattered at sight of the beast; no meeting of "reds" in Union Square was ever more efficiently dispersed by New York's "finest." Roddy was dispersed, too, into a pile of thorny camel-feed in an alley between two house-fronts, landing on head and shoulders. He was not hurt. Like most genuine horsemen, he was more amused than annoyed, after he had felt himself all over. The mule had bucked off her saddle and departed in the general direction of the desert in quest of room for self-determination. The sweating slave pursued her with an air of having a long day's task ahead. There was nothing more to be done about that.

Roddy stared about him. He could see at a glance why the Prophet of Allah forbade that the sound of women's voices in a dwelling should be audible from without. Neighbors have the right to prevent such a scandal and they normally do, like small town neighbors all the world over. But the Prophet of Allah had not foreseen the coming of radio, or he would undoubtedly have forbidden that also, along with wine and ham and more than four wives. One would have had to bootleg radio sets, like hasheesh, and release their deadly entertainment behind curtains in the dark.

Women in Paris, who had very likely never heard of the Prophet of Allah, were singing a French version of a New York torch song. The unnecessary words were no impediment; the Arabs perfectly understood the meaning of the music that poured through the slits of a Zakkum shutter. It was bad for business. It had emptied coffee shops. The crowd that had been scattered by the she-mule was already returning to be seduced, orally, by exotic rhythm that, according to the Prophet, bars the door of heaven, though suggesting its perpetual delights. Their Prophet had understood them perfectly. They even ignored Roddy, they were so preoccupied. Their eyes glowed with the ferocity of sunshine-incubated passion, censored and forbidden to emerge from the folds of pious dignity. They were being bad boys, all afraid of one another's evil thoughts, each ready to accuse the other. Into their midst rode Kamarajes on a big white donkey. His smile was discreet; it suggested the basis of mutual goodwill and forbearance. He, too, had his little peccadillos; if they had theirs, he could sympathize. He did so. Birds of a feather.

Dismounting, he flourished his slouch hat, offering his mount to Roddy with a bow that would have graced d'Artagnan. But it was not more than two hundred yards to Kamarajes' store on a parallel street. The Greek was evidently nervous about talking outdoors; he even put a warning finger to his lips, so Roddy fell into step with him and they turned a corner with the donkey's head between them. Even so the Greek said nothing until they had reached his doorway, where he shouted for a servant who came and led the donkey away. The Swahili of the previous night peered through a slit in the door before he opened it to admit them; then he said something sotto voce.

"Bring her," Kamarajes commanded in Arabic. The Swahili slipped out like a white-robed ghost and Kamarajes shut the door. He bolted it. "Everyone in Zakkum is a spy," he said, smiling at Roddy. "If there is no news, they invent it." Then, over his shoulder as he groped in the liquor chest: "I know what has happened to the horse already. Your confidence has been abused, Mister."

Roddy said nothing. In a flash of ghastly realization he almost lost self-control. He, too, knew what had happened to the horse. It dawned on him, suddenly. He stiffened himself. He felt fear at the pit of his stomach. Rather than speak he walked toward a window in the rear and stared at the piles of hides in the courtyard. The blue sky and the brazen sunlight made the whole scene shabbily unromantic; its keynote was the stinking piles of hides and the lousy vultures on the roofs. The wall on one side of the yard was formed by a long shed that might, or might not have a door in the wall at the far end. Beyond the end-wall was another courtyard and another long shed. Beyond that were the backs of houses in the next street; one was probably the house from which the radio music came. It sounded now like the distant dirge of dead hope.

"Have a drink. Take a good long shot," said Kamarajes. "You need it, Mister, after that swim."

"No, thanks." Roddy stared around him. He noticed Max Rector's gin, the bundle of old magazines and his own bags of horse-fodder and fly-netting. They had already been stowed away under the shelves and he resented it without any particular reason. He felt like picking the first quarrel he could find excuse for. Memory of the exasperating smugness he had had to endure from Max Rector made him grit his teeth. The certainty that Max would make the utmost of this new excuse for airing superior wisdom filled him with fury. The Greek recognized danger and at once poured oil on the troubled water. It might be inflammable oil, but it served the present purpose.

"MISTER, you made that too snappy. I said last night I'd have to tell your business to the Arabs. Someone went off in a hurry to tell Sultan Ayyub. That's why he returned. And now you've given him the horse—all Zakkum says it. I'd have warned you, but you jumped off the scow too quickly. If you want that horse back, you and I will have to do some smart thinking."

Roddy eyed him with frank suspicion. How could Kamarajes possibly know so soon, unless he had known sooner—in advance? If it was a steal, and if Kamarajes was in on the steal, the Sultan might be stingy about commissions and Kamarajes might be planning a coup for his own account. If so, the sooner Roddy knew about that for certain, the better.

"The horse wasn't a gift," he said. "You know that, and so does the Sultan. But what good would it do you if I get the horse back? I've no money. My friend who owns the yacht won't come across. There's nothing in it for you that I know." Kamarajes pushed the glass toward him. "Drink up, Mister. I wouldn't take your money; I know a sportsman when I see one. But there's mow in this than meets the eye, as the Tammany boss said on election day."

"Are you in on it?"

"Deal me in and then I'll help you, Mister."

Roddy's suspicion was stronger than ever. Like the pious Aeneas of old, he distrusted eleemosynary Greeks on all counts of any indictment. But he was beginning to regain his self-command and to think without imagining Max Rector's contemptuous comments. If it was true that Sultan Ayyub had already spread word that the horse was a gift, then that proved it was not a mistake he was making. It was move number two of a slick trick, thought of between night and morning. Roddy felt sure Kamarajes knew that.

"Did you say all Zakkum is talking about it—already?"

"You bet. No need for a telephone in this man's town. News spreads, when it's meant to."

"Do they say why I'm supposed to have given him the horse?"

"Sure they say, nothing for nothing. You came and asked protection for the yacht, while sailors mend the engines. What is more, you'll get it, Mister. That's to say, unless your friend gets ugly. Scratch a Red Sea Arab and you find a devil. Treat him civil, and he's all right."

"Smooth work," said Roddy. He drank the whiskey; there was no sense, at the moment anyhow, in quarreling with Kamarajes. He set the glass down with a bang. "Someone," he said, "thought quickly. Whoever carried the news to Sultan Ayyub in the desert, also tipped him what to do about it. He had the plan on ice when he met me."

Roddy felt eyes on the back of his head. Someone had peered in through the courtyard window. He turned. There was no one any longer at the window, but the door opened and in walked Lilly Lee. The Greek bowed extravagantly as if she were almost a stranger, but Roddy intercepted a glance between them. She walked straight up to Roddy and offered her hand, looking not much different by daylight, except that it was easier to recognize the Nordic spirit beneath the gypsy impress. Her face was sunburned, not naturally swarthy; it was clear, smooth, healthy. She had on an Arab woman's costume, but that made small difference; trousers and black cotton cloak could not hide athletic grace, they emphasized it, though they did reduce her apparent height. She was neat, trim, exciting to the eye, whatever else she might be. She carried in her hand the shawl that should have covered her head, and her dark blue eyes stared at Roddy with a fearless curiosity that disturbed him although he knew no reason why it should. He decided to take the offensive, to startle information from her.

"What do you stand to gain," he demanded suddenly, "by advising Sultan Ayyub to pretend my horse is a gift?"

Her answering smile concealed her thought; beneath it were infinities of unexplorable reserve. He knew he did not understand her. Perhaps he could not. She seemed to wish him to try. Her eyes danced with laughter. Her voice was excited:

"Freedom to leave Zakkum!"

RODDY refused to smile. He tried to stare her out of countenance. He had the white man's almost ineradicable, because almost unconscious attitude of social superiority. She might be white; in fact she certainly was, but she had lost her heritage.

There was a great gulf fixed between them. However, he didn't see that that mattered. He had no intention of getting involved, no matter what her morals; he deliberately bridled an impulse to kiss her and see what happened. He spoke sternly as if to a servant:

"So you thought you'd buy your liberty with my horse, without consulting me?"

Her smile flickered—faded, and her face grew quiet with ambushed purpose—intelligence biding its time. Her silence made him feel he had perhaps guessed wrongly. There was something winsome about her, but nothing weak. She brought to mind the picture of Cleopatra standing before Caesar on an unrolled carpet. She appeared to be deeply interested, perhaps puzzled, but perfectly sure of herself.

"Now I suppose you will be leaving Zakkum?" Roddy suggested.

"How?" she asked. She seemed to think he might know..

"It's usual, isn't it? Tricksters always spring their trap and clear out. Don't Gypsies? You were taught, you say, by Gypsies. Steal and run. Why don't you? Or are you planning to steal the yacht, too?"

She laughed. "Do you want your horse back?"

"I intend to have him."

That was stark bluff. Roddy felt ruined and desperate. He remembered Arabs well enough to know the only way to get his horse from Sultan Ayyub would be by bargaining. He had nothing with which to bargain. Even his thousand dollars was in the form of a personal draft on Bombay; it was not negotiable except at a bank, and there is no bank in Zakkum. He felt violent. Perhaps if he should tempt this girl out to the yacht in defiance of Max Rector's prohibition, she herself might solve the riddle.

She was probably the Sultan's evil genius. How else could she be free of Zakkum, unveiled and free to talk to strangers? Who else, except possibly Kamarajes, could have known enough of the circumstances to be able to advise the Sultan to act so promptly, and so neatly? Why not tempt the girl on board, and then tell the Sultan he could have her back in exchange for the horse?

But Roddy glanced at the rear window. There, in the courtyard, blocked against the blue sky, smiling, stout, secretive, was the eunuch; he had an automatic, a long dagger and an air of not needing to worry as long as he kept awake. From the street came the noise of a crowd assembling at the Greek's door. Voices clamored for admittance.

"And he jumped two loaded camels! What a jump! Mashallah, what a jump!" said the girl. She seemed to prefer to speak Arabic. "Arabs' horses aren't taught to jump. They never do it—never. They gallop around things."

"Tell me," Roddy asked her. "Did you, or did Kamarajes think of it? I was taking that horse to India to try to make some money by winning races. Now I'm broke to the wide world. Which of you did me the dirt?"

She answered again in Arabic: "I understand. If Paulos did it, you would kill him? But—Allaho-Aalam*, it was not Paulos. I thought of it I. Will you kill me?"

* God knows.

"You deserve it," said Roddy. "Will you come with me now to the Sultan and ex-plain there has been a mistake?"

She chuckled. "There has been no mistake. Ayyub loves a horse-race more than song and women—more than prayer—more than all else. He will put his trainers to work to get that horse in condition. Then he will challenge Abdul Harrash, of the Beni Harrash Bedawi, to whom he has lost so many races that he bites his nails. He has lost money and camels and slaves and pearls to Abdul Harrash. He will bet me, this time."

"Oh—you wish to go to Abdul Harrash?"

"BETTER to him than to the fat fool in Mecca. But if I craved an Arab, could I not have made my own choice long ago? I need only to say that I wish to belong to a man, and there is not a shaikh in all this country who would fear to come and rape me away from Ayyub."

"She has pull," said Kamarajes. He went to the door and opened it a trifle, making signs to the crowd to be quiet. He re-bolted the door. "She has political pull I tell you."

She had "pull" of a much less contemptible sort than that. Roddy was becoming thoroughly aware she had it. Without a gesture, without a suggestive word or glance, she was conveying what millions of women fail to, for all their striving. She was an original, owing nothing to convention; and either because of training or intuition hers was the priceless strategy of telling much less than she knew, in order to accomplish what she only guessed at, and wanted. She was not beautiful enough to rely entirely on beauty; she had to use brains. She was not civilized enough to be afraid to choose between good and evil, as she judged them. Deep in her eyes that saw through surfaces lay scorn of past experience, contempt for the present—and something else limitless, it might be patience, or it might be passion, or perhaps both. She stirred Roddy strangely.

Perhaps she guessed that it was easier to stir him than to turn him from a taken course. Roddy was a neck-risker, reckless of no other neck than his own. The next jump always was his goal; his frequent successes had come of making each next post a winning-post. When he lost, no matter how he felt, he looked indifferent; it was the mask from behind which he judged wild chances. As he stared at the girl he wondered why her eyes were so full of—was it laughter? Excitement? Damned if he knew. He had learned what little he knew about women by being ignored or half-affectionately patronized by most of them. Only the rare ones liked him. His irregular, gray-eyed, humorously rugged face had been browned by the weather and scarred by accidents. He was no Adonis. Not a she-moth's hero. But he could make this girl's eyes glow, and she could make him tremble.

"Your friend who owns the yacht," said Kamarajes, "is a horse's rump. He is a—"

Roddy silenced him with a scowl; the more he let Kamarajes talk, the less he was likely to learn from the girl. The Greek slid him a drink along the table; he accepted it and looked straight at her.

"If Ayyub betted you on a horse-race, and lost, would you go to the winner?"

She answered again in Arabic: "Why not? I am weary of Ayyub. I would claim the protection of Abdul Harrash. AH his women of course would try to seduce me for him; but in Arabia a man would rather die ten deaths than take a woman by force; and if he did, he could never lift his head again among equals. I am my own, until I give up."

"Then why not leave Zakkum? You said you hate it."

"I am not free. I told you. I may not leave. They watch me." She glanced at the window, where the eunuch stood as patient as a stalled ox.

"Have you no money?"

"No. If anyone should give me money, they would confiscate all that he has. Should I ruin a friend by accepting alms? I may have all I need, but no money. And if Paulos should help me to go away, where should I go? They would beat Paulos; they would draw him between camels and then tie him to the hell-tree. Paulos is my good uncle and the preserver of my life when I was little."

RODDY found he had to govern impulse with an iron will. There was less iron in the will than he felt he needed. He had to remind himself that he wasn't a plumed knight in shining armor rescuing damsels from durance vile; the age of chivalry is over. Neither was he Don Juan; he had to remind himself also of that. "Let's talk horse," he suggested. She nodded.

"Do you think you can get my horse away from Ayyub?"

She nodded again.

"Go to it. Get him."


"I will do whatever I can for you and Kamarajes." It was weak, but Roddy didn't know anything else he could have said.

"Don't mind me," Kamarajes interrupted. "I'm a man without a country. I'll stay in Zakkum. I'm all right here, as long as I don't break the wrong rules. There's no such thing as circumstantial evidence in Arabia. If I'm not seen or heard, or don't confess I helped her to escape, no need to worry about me."

"Would they beat you to get your confession?1' Roddy asked him.

"On the feet, you mean? Not if I weren't suspected. Never mind me. Talk horse to her."

"How do you propose to get my horse?" asked Roddy.

"By a horse-race. How else? Winner-take-all is the rule in Arabia. The winner takes the loser's horse, and his bet too."

"You'll be the bet?"

She nodded.

"Don't you want her?" asked Kamarajes. That was a hell of a question to ask a man who was racking his brain for courteous evasions. But the girl came to Roddy's rescue:

"No," she said, "he doesn't want me. Can't you sec it?" But she showed no disappointment. Roddy knew that he ought to be glad she didn't.

"Is Ayyub mad?" he asked her. "If he knows the first thing about horses, he must know that mine can't be fit for racing for six weeks, not with the best trainer on earth. D'you mean he'll race him and bet on him?"

"Leave it to me."

"That's right," said Kamarajes. "Leave it to her."

"Damned if I get the hang of it at all," said Roddy. "Where do you live?"

"With the old aunt—the old Ajuz* Zariphah—in that house." She glanced at the window and nodded a rebellious head toward the house whence the radio music came; somewhere in Europe a band was playing one of Sousa's marches. She shrugged her shoulders. "Zariphah is too fat to walk and too old to live. She has a tongue like a knife on a grinder's wheel, so Ayyub gave her that house. She receives a stipend, and I have to coax her for my clothing."

* An insulting epithet—hideous hag.

"There's a flaw somewhere." said Roddy. "You were able to reach Zakkum without money or influence. Here you say you have influence. It seems to me you could escape if you made up your mind, and without getting Kamarajes into trouble."

"Yes," she answered, "I might do it. But where should I go? To be held in an immigration station? Have you seen one? To be asked, who are my parents? Where am I going? How do I get my living? To be penniless—disbelieved—insulted—told to stay in this place, go to that place, to do this, not that? To run away again with Gypsies, faute de mieux? Or to live in the slums of Marseilles again, after riding the desert on camel-back? To sell myself to a policeman's protege to save me from registration in the prefect's book?"

"Is it as bad as all that?" asked Roddy wonderingly.

"Not in Arabia. Women are safe in Arabia."

"But you say you hate it."

She nodded. "I hate waiting."

"What for?" He shouldn't have asked that. He knew he shouldn't.

"I am a woman," she said simply. Then, because Roddy was wondering what to say next, and staring at her in the broken light that streamed through the slatted window-blind, she continued: "Was there ever a woman who did not dream of a man so wonderful and brave that it were paradise to eat his leavings and to follow him to the ends of the world?"

Her eyes glowed. There was no possible doubt what she meant.

"I am not that kind of man," said Roddy.

"Have you a woman?"

"No," he answered. Too late, he wished he had had presence of mind to invent a wife in New York. But the lie would have served no purpose. She tossed her belligerent young head and smiled proudly:

"It is a good thing for her that she is not. If she were, she would be sorry. Because of thee, my lord, I make choice. So may Allah requite thee with good and make thee my master and lord of all I have."

IT WAS a staggerer. She laid a hand on his forearm, and the light, firm touch sent such thrills through Roddy that he was hardly conscious of anything else at the moment except her eyes, and her lips, and the sensuous, wholesome smell of her body six inches from him. Roddy was no dweller at dangerous fences; he preferred to rush them. That was a time honored phrase she had used and it sometimes means, on certain women's lips, mere loyal friendship, or perhaps gratitude. But not on her lips. It was a hell of a chance. Should he take it?

She put the palms of both hands on his breast and looked into his eyes. He hugged her close and kissed her because he couldn't help it; and he went on kissing her because he liked it. It was something wholly new in his experience. He felt half-guilty, half-ashamed, but reckless—mad—possessive and-possessed. He didn't give a damn. Neither did she. For the moment he even forgot the horse.

There came a sudden pounding on the shop door and Kamarajes went to peer through the slit. There was a chorus of voices outside. The girl broke free from Roddy's arms and ran through the back door into the courtyard, leaving Roddy wondering "did that eunuch see or overhear us? Is he one of the friends she refuses to get into trouble? Or is he danger itself?"

The door burst open and a crowd of Arabs flowed in with the golden sunlight. In their midst there was one of the seamen from the Blue Heron, hot and a bit bewildered, as delighted to see Roddy as if it meant a reprieve from hanging.

"Owner's compliments, sir. Will you kindly come aboard as soon as possible."

"Sure. What's the trouble?"

"I don't know, sir. The tender's waiting."

"See you again," said Kamarajes, smiling to himself or to Roddy, it was hard to tell which; he looked less mysterious than slyly cocksure of something.


THE tender vibrated to forty horse-power. There was a fool of a big brass binnacle in the stern. It rattled:


The glare on the sea made Roddy's head ache. The distant yacht looked like an explosion of paint and chromium aswim in its own reflection. The certainty that his horse was now no more than live-bait, in a trap set for himself, was made doubly perplexing by other sensations.

That girl had been hair-trigger quick. Roddy admired that; he enjoyed being quick on the trigger himself. But what in the world could she stand to gain? And what was the Greek's objective? Greek traders in Red Sea towns are not altruists or innocent observers of intrigue. The Greek was a crook; not a doubt he was a fugitive from justice. If the girl's story was true, no one could blame her for snatching at any means of escape from Zakkum—no one, that was to say, except people like Max Rector who would find fault with a dog in a trap if it bit him and call it a cur if it didn't. Conviction that she had told the truth about herself might be merely an illusion produced by kissing. She might be just as crooked as the Greek. Suppose she was? What of it? Roddy had to get his horse back somehow. What terms would she exact, though? He wondered. Why had he been such an ass as to let the Sultan have the horse? How the devil could he have avoided letting him have it? All those thoughts surged in Roddy's aching head, along with a familiar sensation, which he knew was the real keynote. He knew he would find some way out of it. Back down? Nothing doing! Jumping fences is the way to learn what's on the far side. But be careful. Watch that the man alongside doesn't get a foot under your stirrup.

He was in a fine state of mind to meet Max Rector! Max was waiting for him at the head of the bridge companion ladder; he looked important and self-righteous, as if he had just been firing someone. Under that yachtsman's cap his face was like pork; his astigmatic eyes behind the pince-nez were more intelligent than a pig's, but much more mistrustful. However, with his customary tact when he wanted sympathy, he had the steward busy shaking cocktails in the little cubby-hole of a bar behind the wheel-house. The steward had real cars.

"How about a snifter, Roddy Nolan? Sun's over the yardarm. Splicing the main brace is good for a wet skin. I saw you take that ducking. There was a shark within fifty yards of you. Did you know it?"

"That why you sent for me?" Roddy asked him.

"No, I need cooperation." That was Max's phrase for getting someone else to do some dirty work. He glanced at a little fleet of Arab fishing boats that lay almost within hail, swaying their lateen spars to the heave of a slow ground-swell.

RODDY accepted a cocktail from the steward. "What's wrong?" He didn't like the look of those fishing boats; they were too close together, too ganged up and quiet.

"Wrong? I'm sick of Arabs. No wonder they cut no ice in the world. They haven't changed in three thousand years. They look like Solomon and Moses and all the rest of 'em. You'd think their mildest remark 'ud make Omar Khayyam sound like Ella Wheeler Wilcox. All they really say is Gimmc-gimme-gimme! Sheiks, eh? They're the scum o' the earth."

"What have you been doing to them?" Roddy answered. He felt another sag at the pit of his stomach. He might have known Max would start something to add to the mess.

"Nothing!" said Max. "I've done nothing to them. Why should I?" He refused a cocktail; he raised his eyebrows at the steward, who should have known he never touched liquor before sunset. "But I don't want smallpox on the yacht, I don't mind telling you. After you left, those filthy looking lepers crowded alongside scratching the paint and yelling for buckshecsh until you couldn't hear yourself think. Gimme-gimme-gimme! I shouted 'imshi!' That's good Arabic, isn't it? Means, 'Make yourself scarce,' doesn't it? They should understand that, shouldn't they? Their own language. But they started to swarm aboard. They had to be given the bum's rush. They became abusive. I ordered the bo'sun to give 'em a dose of the fire-hose. Pretty soon they had to scatter and bail the hose-water out of their rotten old boats. But they didn't go back to their filthy beach; they simply lay off there, just out of range of the hose, and behaved like madmen. One of them even fired a shot at the bridge. You can see where he chipped the paint off. See it?"

"What did you do?" Roddy asked him.

"Nothing. I served out rifles to the officers, that's all. I put a couple of cases of tear-gas bombs in the wheel-house. But I did nothing."

"Then what?"

"MacNamara talked to them. He knows less Arabic than decent manners, and darned little manners I don't mind telling you. He couldn't make them understand him; but according to his account of it they were yelling they'd get even. I'm going to weigh anchor as soon as I can, and make for Suez—take a tow if MacNamara can't get us in shape before dark."

"My horse—"

"Sorry about your horse, old man. You were in too great a hurry. You'll have to fetch him back to the yacht."

"Look here. Max, I've made a bloomer. I accepted the Sultan's offer to put the horse in his stable. Now he's pretending I gave him the horse. I've got to get around that somehow."

Max raised his eyebrows. He adjusted his pince-nez. "Well, well!" he remarked. "Did he sell you wooden money, too? Or did he get you to play cards with him? Did you bet you could find the pea under the thimble?" He shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry."

"Look here, Max. I happen to know the man needs gasoline. Sell me a couple of spare drums. Maybe I can work it that way."

Max snorted. "That's what those boatmen were after—the spare drums on deck. Nothing doing. That's for the tenders."

The pit of Roddy's stomach suddenly felt better. With almost a mechanical click he made up his mind. That was good for his guts. Even his head left off aching. As between Max Rector and that horse there was nothing to argue about.

"I'll go ashore and stay," he answered. No use telling Max the details. "I'll be all right. I'll get the horse back somehow. Perhaps I can ride to Hodeidah later on and pick up a tramp steamer for Bombay or Karachi."

"Oh?" said Max. "The girl, eh?" He fixed his pince-nez again because the sweat made them slip off his nose.

"No," said Roddy. "But the horse is all I have between me and a life of shame. I can't afford to lose him."

"It will be a life of shame if that girl gets her clutches on you."

"Have you a thousand dollars on board?" Roddy asked. "Will you cash my draft on Bombay if I endorse it over to you?"

"See here, old fellow." Max assumed his tolerant-paternal, worldly-wise air. It didn't match with his face, but until that damned investigation, it had served very well at vestry meetings; it had won him a reputation for being tolerant but a great stickler for respectability. "Get that girl out of your mind. Don't let her psychologize you. Read Freud; I've a copy in my stateroom."

"I'm thinking of my horse," said Roddy.

"Very well, forget the horse, too. That's a low price to pay for escape from a Jezebel. You're broke, I know that; I will lend you money to buy another horse. After all, it wasn't your fault that the engine broke down, was it. Perhaps you can buy a better horse in Bombay."

"Good of you," said Roddy. "But I'll stick to The Prophet thank you." It was not in the rules of the game, as Roddy and his sort play it, to insult one's host on his own bridge.

It was better to ask a favor. He hated to do it, but get a cad to do a favor for you and he feels magnanimous; that makes him a bit less offensive. "Cash my draft, old fellow, into dollars, pounds or francs, and I'll make out nicely."

MAX pursed his mouth. "I wouldn't think of it," he answered. "Roddy, I won't be party to your downfall. You are after that woman. I know it, even if you're not frank to admit it. That horse story wouldn't fool a—"

"You've the cash?" asked Roddy.

"In the safe. You'll be grateful it stayed in the safe, by the time we reach India. Forget the girl. Have another cocktail. Take off that headdress, it makes you look like one of those buckshecsh-begging Arabs. By the way, I wish you'd speak to them. Hail them and give them a bit of your fluent Arabic. I suppose it 'ud only whet the beggars' appetites to give 'em anything—however, perhaps you'd better promise 'em bucksheesh to let us alone. Go along, old fellow—sell 'em some conversation."

Roddy strode to the wing of the bridge to avoid Max's hand that was patting him fatly between the shoulder-blades. Skillful malefactors know that a pat on some men's backs will start almost anything, from a fist-fight to a world war; but Max thought he was being gracious; he was not a conscious malefactor. He didn't know he had snapped the last shred of a sportsman's tolerance. Roddy pulled off the headdress and waved it to summon the Arab boatmen within hail.

"Don't promise too much. Better be vague," Max warned him.

Vagueness was the last thing in Roddy's mind. He felt like smashing Max in the face—anything definite—forthright—honest. Sure, Max would leave the horse behind; he was the kind of a man who turns a dog loose to fend for itself when keeping him isn't convenient any longer. Roddy harangued the Arabs like one of their own muallim preaching from the Koran, cursing them because he wanted to curse Max. When a word failed him, he invented it, and that made the boatmen think he was very learned. Had it not been for his accent they might have thought him a genuine prophet because of his insolence. Instead of promising them money, he told them he was coming ashore to ask their sultan whether men in Zakkum had any honor. Then he waved them away, and a few boats went. They were convinced there was fun in the wind. Arabs have their own idea of fun. Some of them lay on their oars a cable's length away to watch the yacht. The remainder rowed toward the beach to talk things over.

"There you are," said Roddy, keeping his temper with Max by grinning. "Now I'll pack my duds and go ashore. Perhaps the Greek can use a draft. I'll manage somehow."

Max began to remonstrate, but Roddy turned his back and walked down off the bridge. His stateroom was a small one just abaft the chief engineer's cabin, it being one of Max's principles never to quarter less than a millionaire or a titled sponger in the larger staterooms; those were all locked. Roddy almost cannoned into MacNamara, who had been washing up.

"Laddie," said MacNamara, "I over-hear-r-d yon masterpiece."

"Did you? What of it?"

"I could do wi' a drink," said MacNamara.

He followed Roddy into the stateroom.

Roddy rang for the steward. Having also overheard the entire bridge conversation, the steward brought the cocktail shaker with him; there was plenty in it; he poured, deposited the shaker on the table and went his way. The windows were wide open; the slatted shutters were closed; the chromium-plated hardware outside could stand wiping, and most of the deck-hands were down in the engine-room chiseling time-and-a-half.

"I overhear-r-d ye. I could botch the radio," said MacNamara.

"Why?" asked Roddy.

"MAN, ye're less obsairvant than I credited. Ye tak' me f'r one o' yon ignorant eels that squirrm an' shak' a shimmy wi' delight at being bawled out by a bag o' deevidends? I'm consair-r-vative by inclination an' necessity, and I'm a fanatical deeciplinarian aboard ship. But when an owner tells me to my face, and in front of a grinnin' gang o' deck-hands, mind ye, that I'm to mind my manners, yon's the leemit. Man, I've pairfcct manners."

"Drink up," said Roddy.

"Aye. That's deleerious inspiration. But I hae ma doots about it for a hobby. Is there more in that churn?"

"You were saying—?"

"I was coming to it. I'd a verra strong tip for a chestnut hor-r-se called Cat's Pyjamas, in the Nile Plate at Alexandria. That's several weeks ago."

"Yes?" said Roddy. "I know old Cat's Pyjamas. He won races in England. A friend of mine owns him."

"Man, ye choose y'r friends wi' scant discreemination. That loon should ha' stuck to producin' plays. It would ha' cost me less to watch him lose his money. Cat's Pyjamas tried to feenish tenth. He might ha' done it if there'd been more than nine runners."

"Lose much?"

"Relatively speaking. I was never a Croesus. I have my certeeficate still. Do ye aim to race yon stallion o' yours in Zakkum? If so—"

"What?" asked Roddy.

"Spor-r-t and releegion are much of a muchness. I'm no verra releegious from a doctrinarian standpoint, but there's sporrt in my veins. My father was the best poacher in all Argyllshire. Man, I've walked fra' San Francisco to Tiajuana to see a horse run—aye, and walked back. I've lairned many a time what transpor-r-tation seegnifies when spor-r-t hasn't left ye the change of a dollar. What's the layout? Arabs are not such unresourceful boobies as ye might imagine. But I'll no leave ye in the lur-r-ch, if it's a lassie and a horse-race that's callin' ye ashore. I'm a sporrtsman masel'. Yon bag of expedient morals may own the yacht an' pay the bills, but he couldn't move her half a cable's length to please the underwriters—no, nor all the British Navy, if ye say so. Only say so."

"He could wireless for a tow," said Roddy.

"Man, I'll gie ye a brass-bound guarantee he'll no' do it. Leave that to me an' the mate. I know his deeferential calculus. He'll no weigh anchor until we have the Arabs' dollars—or they ours—no matter if the pressure o' his prejudices burrsts his gizzard. What's the proposeetion?"

"Did you talk to that Greek?" asked Roddy.

"It was the Greek who did the talking. I lack conversational fluidity. A Greek can tell ye more in fifteen minutes—an' to the point if he sees a pur-r-pose in it—than a whole packed confer-r-encce of inter-r-na-tional ambassadors could put ye wise to in a week. I'm a humanitarian. Get me?"

"No," said Roddy.

"To the last man on the yacht, fra' mate to pantry boy, we're stirr-red to indignation by the damned obscenity o' bein' or-r-dered—or-r-dered, mind ye—to beat up inoffensive Arabs on the yacht's deck. Unnecessary and deleeberate violence under the Stars an' Stripes—can ye believe it?"

"Was it as bad as all that?"

"Man, ye should ha' seen it."

"Glad I didn't. Don't you think he will signal for help?"

MacNamara raised his voice a trifle, moving so as to face the slatted window. "Confeedential infor-r-mation might reach him to the speceefic effect that the crew are shairpening pens for signing affidavits. There's no mutiny, ye understan'. If it busts the owner, we're obeyin' or-r-ders. But there's eight an' twenty officers an' men conseederin' the moral obligation to gie evidence, if as and when. Ye get that? Is he cour-r-tin' publicity? D'ye suppose the daily papers wad flatter his vanity, if it was learned he'd run awa' fra' Arabs that he'd assaulted wi'out rhyme or reason, an' had left a r-reputable spor-rtsman stranded wi' a good horse on a dam-bad Red Sea beach?"

"I'm not complaining," said Roddy. He changed the subject and rang the bell for the steward. "How long do you expect to be here?"

MacNamara drained the last drops from the cocktail shaker. He had his eye on the door, where the steward was calculating how many seconds it ought to take him to come from the pantry.

"Man, Diesel-electric engines are as temper-r-amental as a Schenectady judge. There's no predeectin' how many days they'll hold ye, pending an investigation o' the cir-r-rcumstances. Times they'll hold ye an' unconscionable peeriod. Times they'll dismiss ye off-hand. It depends on y'r attor-r-ney."

THE steward entered and began packing Roddy's belongings. MacNamara shook his head at the empty cocktail shaker. "Oh, the pity of it, that a man mayn't live wi' such inspir-r-ation; it wad bur-r-n the uni-ver-r-se, but what a spectacle for angels! Well, I'll be goin'. Tak' good care o' y'rsel'." He paused in the doorway and jerked his head shoreward. "Is she a bon-nie lassie—yon?"

Roddy laughed. He tipped the steward, wondering whether he should talk to him; he knew the man had been listening. To his astonishment the steward refused the tip.

"Thank you, sir, but—no, sir, if you don't mind, I'd rather not. We're all for you. We don't like to see you leave us. You keep your money; you may need it. We're all hoping you'll make out."

Roddy returned to the bridge to say good-by to Max. It was on the tip of his tongue to drop him more than a hint, but Max exploded too soon.

"Very well, good-by, Nolan. Rats are supposed to desert sinking ships, but this one isn't sinking, so I suppose you're not a rat. What are you? It's the last time I'll offer a lift to a woman-chaser and incorrigible gambler. When that woman's through with you, perhaps you'll come to your senses. But it's not too late to change your mind. You may stay aboard and—"

It was no use warning that ass. "Good-by," said Roddy.


RODDY shrugged Max from mind. On the way to the beach in the twenty knot tender, with his three suitcases, a couple of spare bridles and a favorite saddle, he felt happier than for weeks past. Somehow he would recover the horse; perhaps the girl knew how to do it. Anyhow, he intended to get the horse. He might ride to Hodeidah by slow stages. It would be a bit of a problem to get from there to India, but meanwhile—the binnacle vibrated: "Lillilee—Lillilee—Lillilee."

He had better do some cool thinking about her, and it was a bit too hot to feel cool about anything. She would probably avoid him when she learned he was broke or next thing to it. Adventuress? Of course she was. Why shouldn't she avoid him? Who should blame her? She, too, had her future to consider. He would give the girl fair warning, first thing. After that, with her eyes open, let her do as she chose—provided she chose not to be a damned fool. Roddy told himself he hoped she would avoid him. But he admitted he would hate not to see her again.

He noticed a number of Arab fishing boats, but not particularly; there was such a glare on the sea that he wished he had smoked glasses. It hurt him to try to focus things over the water, so he kept his eyes in the boat except for moments at a time. What a damned liar Max was, claiming to have seen a shark fifty yards from the shore, even through binoculars. Silly ass. But never mind Max. Forget him. Concentrate on how to get The Prophet away from Sultan Ayyub. Horse-race be sugared. Silly idea. The Prophet wouldn't be fit to race a donkey without at least ten days' training; he had eaten nothing but hay and a few carrots for about a fortnight. No, no. Better see the Sultan and be straightforward with him. Frankness pays best, even in Arabia. Ayyub was only a rather unimportant shaikh—foxy by the look of him—shrewd-eyed. Greedy, of course—they all are; but a little flattery might make him amenable. Careful, though. Flattery makes some men think you're their inferior. And so you are, by God, if you're willing to flatter 'em too much. No, no. Flattery's out. Take the other line—upstage him, but not too much of that either. Should be no trouble about getting to see him; shaikhs have to give public audience twice daily; they'd be "for it" if they didn't; Arabs won't stand for invisible government.

Roddy didn't turn to look at the yacht until he had waded ashore and a sailor had dumped his baggage on the beach. That fellow also refused a tip. (God, Max was popular!) Boats were clustered near the yacht; Max was probably in the midst of what he would think was awful trouble. Do him good, the contemptible grouch. No harm was likely to come to him; for inscrutable reasons the Almighty seems to look after millionaires with mean dispositions. Several fishing boats were on the way to the yacht; there wasn't even one old boat left hauled on the beach. Something doing. Well, they might give Max a scare, but what else could they do to him? Max had rifles—revolvers—tear-gas bombs. There was probably plenty of juice for the searchlights after sunset. It was hardly likely the crew would refuse to stand Arabs off—searchlight, perhaps deck-hose and a few threats. Max would return to the U.S.A. and bore everyone at the club with a lot of lies about a fight with pirates. To hell with Max anyhow. Hope I never see him again.

Bright fellow that Kamarajes. Must have kept a look-out on the roof. His Swahili servant was there with a donkey to carry the luggage, so Roddy didn't have to waste time on the stinking beach swatting flies with that Arab headdress. Too bad he hadn't a hat, but no matter; the shaikh—beg his pardon, the Sultan—might regard it as a compliment that he had retained the kuffiyeh. Better go ahead at once, and see the Sultan. Learn the worst and get it over with. Make up his mind what to say to him after he got there.

But Roddy hadn't a definite idea, not yet. He merely knew he had no resources behind him and all Arabia in front. When he reached Kamarajes' store he needed no urging to go in and talk things over. Besides, it was nearly high noon—eleven, anyhow—and as hot as the furnace-door of Tophet—no time to call on an Arabian shaikh; he'd be taking a siesta in the harem. Roddy walked in and sat on Kamarajes' table, staring at him. The Greek returned the stare with the curious smile of a connoisseur considering someone's purchase.

"Winner take all," said Kamarajes. Those were the first words spoken by either of them.

"See here," said Roddy, swiping with his handkerchief. Flies kept touching his lips. Like most neck-riskers he was a bit superstitious; it felt as if disgusting fingers were warning him not to tell the truth. The effort of swiping at flies had the effect of emphasis. "I'm up against it. No use picking me as a winner. Tell that girl to keep away, or I won't answer for the consequences. Understand me?"

"Yes," said Kamarajes. "Any news of when the yacht sails?"

"No. She'll sail without me."

"Oh?" said Kamarajes.

"Yes. The first problem is my horse. Get him, get him in shape, and then ride to Hodeidah, if that's possible. Could I get a reliable guide?"

THE Greek grinned. "Reliable? If you want to be safe anywhere in Arabia, take a decent woman with you. If you like trouble, take along a loose one. Lillilee is on the level."

"Very likely. What do you take me for?" Roddy asked him.

"She takes you for a genuine guy who won't abuse confidence," said Kamarajes. "She could have any Arab she wants. But the sort don't live that she'd put up with. She likes the desert. She likes some of the Arabs' ideas—but not Arabs as a steady diet. She has heard of Rosita Forbes; that's her pattern of a woman—plus some mischief on the side. She don't like insincere folks, and she don't like Holy Joes. She's what the Germans call a Wandervogel. Know what that is? Barring the Bible—she reads that to help her understand Arabs—the only English book she has is called Kim, by a man named Kipson, or Kimling, or some such name."


"That's it. Kim's her hero. Me, I never read the book. It seems this kid Kim bucked life from the bottom upward*and learned India the way a gum-shoe dick knows Harlem. Sort of a Gypsy in his way of looking at things, only you can't bet on Gypsies. Kim was a bird to bet on, so she tells me. And so she is. But bet on her—not on her making a break. She gets 'em. She doesn't make 'em. She's been propositioned, mind you. She has turned down what 'ud look like a fortune to a girl who didn't know her own mind. That's no blarney about her saving herself for a man she'd be game to go to hell with."

"Let's hope she'll find the right man," said Roddy.

He knew that was a bromide. It sounded like one of Max's insincerities. But he wanted Kamarajes to advise the girl to keep away. The Greek looked reminiscent.

"She'll back her own judgment, Mister. She knows men the way a Gypsy knows horses, only maybe better. If you've come ashore for good, she'll have to think quick."


"She's hell-bent to get to India. That's why she asked the horse's rump who owns the packet, will he stop at Aden. She don't want to be put off at Aden. She sized up Horse's Rump as quick as lightning. He'd put her off at Aden—make a big squawk too, to the port authorities. She likes officials the way God and the Devil like each other."

"The authorities wouldn't let her land in India," said Roddy.

Kamarajes grinned. His ears spread. His eyes narrowed. "Mister, you can keep a wasp out of the honey, if you don't fall asleep on the job. If you've money enough and a lawyer, you can keep most folks out o' Sing Sing. But I'd like to see anyone that girl from where she wants to get. She figgers you'd not spike her chances."

"I've no money," Roddy insisted.

"What the hell does money matter? I'd no money when I came here."

"Can't you make her understand, for God's sake, that a fellow in my position couldn't land in India with an unattached girl to explain away? Even if she doesn't realize it, surely you do."

"Well, Mister, are you going to leave her in Zakkum?"

"Damn. I'll talk to her myself. Where is she?"

"She's showing 'em what your horse is good for. Arab horses don't jump. Did you know that?"

"Curse—they'll ruin him. He isn't fit to be jumped."

"She knows horses, Mister. Care to watch it? Come this way."

He found a pair of old binoculars and led the way out of the shop and around three blocks of flat-roofed buildings, in a sun-glare that seemed to weigh like cast brass; the almost motionless air was like a breath of Death Valley with a foul stench added. The call to midday prayer was a thing of the past. Prayer mats had been rolled up and the roofs were deserted. The blind muezzin was groping his way down from the minaret, beside a mosque from which the heat had peeled flakes of cracked lime. There was no one on the mosque steps. Kamarajes whispered to the old muezzin. He gave the Greek his key and walked away to sit down in the shade and meditate.

"Promised him a couple of drinks," said Kamarajes. "They pick 'em blind so they can't look down on roofs and see what goes on. What you don't know can't make you dangerous. He wouldn't touch wine; he's pious. Whiskey costs me more, but isn't mentioned in the Koran. Two shots make the old bird pie-eyed. Wait till you hear him at midnight. Talk about crooners! Shut that door behind you, Mister, or there might be trouble."

It was a tall minaret and the winding stairs inside were steep. The gallery near the summit had a waist-high curtain of hewn and cemented stone that looked unsafe to lean against. One could see all Zakkum—the whole horizon. The yacht in the offing was a colored splurge on a molten mirror; it looked small one moment, enormous the next; sunlight stabbed the polished hardware like flashes of lightning; eyes refused to perceive the yacht's shape, but it was possible to make out a sort of twinkling Pleiades of fishing boats that lay near.

"Take the glasses," said Kamarajes. "That's the Sultan's palace. That's the prison and barracks beyond it. That open space to the right of the palace is the stable-yard. Watch that."

THERE were men in the yard; most of them were squatting in a row beneath a long roof in deep shadow. A high wall shut off the view of about half the yard; it formed a straight line on the near side of two loaded camels that were being pulled to and fro by their head-ropes. One camel knelt just as Roddy got the glasses focussed on him; then the other was maneuvered and made to kneel almost rump-to-rump with the first one, so that their high loads formed one barrier. After that there was a long pause and nothing apparently doing.

"Don't move, or they'll see your head against the sky," said Kamarajes. "Good job you're wearing an Arab head-dress." He had removed his own hat; he pulled the rail of his shirt up over his head, and kept his head low.

Suddenly Roddy saw The Prophet cantering slowly around the yard; there were dark patches of sweat on his withers and foam on his neck where the reins touched it, but he pulled at the bit in the way he did when he felt full of life and energy. He had no saddle. On his back was a slim, bare-legged individual who looked like a boy.

"By God, what hands!" said Roddy. "That fellow can ride."

"Gimme the glasses. Let me have a look," said Kamarajes.

"Go to hell. It's my horse."

The Prophet disappeared from view, then suddenly reappeared at the end of the yard, where he pranced for a moment sideways, held in check by someone who could think horse and compel the horse to think. He tried to take charge and was checked again. Then suddenly he dug in his toes and went straight at the kneeling camels, jumped them easily with inches to spare and lashed out as he cleared the high loads.

"Damn, I'll have to break him of that kicking habit," said Roddy. "That's a new trick."

Kamarajes snatched the glasses. He watched until The Prophet was led to a post in the shade and hitched there to be rubbed down by the forearms of dark-skinned slaves.

"She could make a horse talk," he said. "Come on down before we're seen."


"Sure. Didn't you recognize her? What's that new radio catch-word? We do our part! She'll do hers, I bet you two old Korans to a hymn-book." His voice boomed hollow inside the minaret. "Will Horse's Rump do his, though—that's the problem."

"Never mind him," said Roddy. "How soon d'you suppose I can get an audience with the Sultan?"

Kamarajes ignored the question. "Horse's Rump know any Arabic?"

"Allah, imshi, salaam. That's all, I believe."

"Good. Anyone else on the yacht know Arabic?"

"MacNamara, the engineer, knows a little."

The Greek turned at the foot of the steps to lock the door and toss the huge iron key into the old muezzin's lap. He grinned at Roddy:

"MacNamara didn't sign on as interpreter, did he? Horse's Rump will need one bad before long. You quarreled with him?"

"It takes two to quarrel," said Roddy. "What has that to do with you and me and my getting my horse?"

"Mister, it will save you from having to tell some lies. Hell can't be worse than Zakkum, so don't trouble about my telling 'em. When I go to hell, I'll get used to it."

They returned to the store, walking in mid-street, preferring the sun to the flies that droned above the filth near the walls.

Kamarajes produced a bottle from the big chest and slid the glasses along the table.

"Here's to Horse's Rump. He needs all the luck he can get. He'll come ashore soon."

"What makes you think so?"

"Frightened stiff," said Kamarajes. "The Sultan has sent him a letter in Arabic asking why he attacked inoffensive boatmen."

"What of it? He can't read Arabic."

"Sure. Drink up. He can send for me to read it for him, can't he? I read Arabic good."

"Will you go if he sends for you?"

"Sure I'll go. I want word with the engineer."

"What about?"

"That's my business. Oh, what the hell. You're on the level. I'll tell you. Why not? Now and then I have to make up as an Arab and go to Alexandria on business, with an Arab passport. I don't shut my eyes when a chance hits me smack in the nose.

"One night in Alexandria I stumbled over a drunken Scotsman in the dark and busted my nose till it bled."

"I suppose you went through his pockets?"

"I DID. But I wasn't the first who'd stumbled on him. If he'd been a Greek I might have let him lie there. Drunken Greeks are a bad bet. But a Scotch engineer in trouble is a gilt-edge proposition. He's good luck, like a black cat, or a new moon over your right shoulder. Dam-bad luck of course to pass him up. I had to act quick before the police chanced on him. He was in a bad way, was MacNamara. Broke. Lost his job and couldn't get one. In bad with the consulate. I arranged with a good Eyetalian friend o* mine, and a couple o' Greeks in the cotton business, and a clerk in a Maltese shipping agency, to do some propaganda for him. References was what he needed. But he needed money, and I had to lend it and take a chance. I had to go away and leave him. It isn't safe for me to stay too long in Alexandria."

"Why not?" asked Roddy.

It was a dangerous question. The Greek stared. "All right, I'll tell you, Mister. They can extradite a man from Egypt. I've U.S. papers."

"Wanted? You must have been away a long time. How about the statute of limitations?"

"None for first degree murder. I bumped a guy off. But they can't extradite you for what isn't against the law in the country where you've taken up residence. There's no law in Arabia against cutting out a bozo's liver if he steals your woman. That's a duty, in Zakkum."

"Go on, you were talking of MacNamara."

"Well, you can't lose if you treat a Scotchman right, provided he needs help, mind you. If they don't need help, they'll help 'emselves, so watch out. They're slow pay. But they're slow forgetters." Kamarajes held up his hand and listened. "Ah! Didn't I tell you?"

There came an Arab boatman on the run. He was sweating and out of breath, but he paused at the door to invoke Peace in the Name of the Prophet.

"In the name of The Prophet, peace!" said Kamarajes in English. He grinned and winked at Roddy. Then, in Arabic: "Peace unto you. Enter."

The boatman bore an envelope addressed to Kamarajes. The Greek tore it open. "Here you are," he said, "read it yourself."

Mr. Kamarajes,

Dear Sir:

I would like a consultation. Can you come at once? I have sent the tender for your convenience.

Yours truly,

Max Rector.

"Scared stiff," said Kamarajes. "Didn't dare send a sailor ashore. Will you wait here?"

He rammed on his slouch hat and followed the boatman to the beach. Roddy bolted the shop door to avoid being pestered by inquisitive Arabs, who might crowd into the shop to ask innumerable questions and then go and report his answers to the Sultan. He sat down and lighted a cigarette—got up and paced the floor—sat down again—thumbed an ancient magazine—whistled to himself—thought of his horse and of Lillilee. The flies bothered him. He got up and walked to the window, jerking aside the slatted blind to stare into the courtyard. He stared straight into Lillilee's eyes, blue, eager, wistful.

Something caught in his throat. He couldn't speak for a second. When he found words he was curt.

"Come in," he said. "I want to talk to you."

She came in through the rear door, wearing a Bedouin woman's black drape over almost nothing; at every other step a sun-burned leg like a boy's appeared through the drapery; it was like David's leg by Michael Angelo. Roddy offered her a chair, but she preferred the edge of the table. Roddy was no good at beating bushes. He plunged in.

"Sorry I kissed you."

"Why?" She seemed genuinely curious to know why.

"Because I shouldn't have. As a matter of fact, I'm not that kind of cheap sport."

"Who said you are?"

"Well, I don't want you to get false notions."

"I haven't any."

"Yes, you have. You think I'm a good prospect. I'm not. I have very little money, no influence, and, unless I get my horse, no prospects."

She looked very pleased to know all that. "You shall have the horse," she answered.

"You mean, with your help?"

SHE nodded. Her eyes were baffling. One bare, very shapely arm made passes at the flies, but except for that she sat perfectly still.

"After I get the horse," said Roddy, "how much then will you consider I owe you?"


"Dammit," said Roddy, "I am trying to get this on a business basis. Don't you understand me?"

"Oh, yes. Do you understand me?"

"No," he answered.

Her eyes laughed, but she kept control of her face. "I'm—what do you call it when you will have, but you can't have yet, and won't be hasty?"


"No, I'm not patient. I know—practical, that's what I am. You don't know yet what I'm good for. But you like me?"

"Yes," said Roddy. "That's why I'm warning you to—" He hesitated for the right phrase.

"To look out for myself? Do you think I would ask you to do that? I'm not—" She, too, hesitated, then remembered Roddy's attempt to describe himself: "I'm not that kind of cheap sport."

"What the hell are you?" asked Roddy.

"Do you think I'm your enemy?"

"I hope not."

He felt at the end of his verbal resources. He almost wished she had tried to make love to him, or to make him make love to her; he might have known how to cope with that. He might even have hustled her out into the courtyard then and have slammed the door on her, to save them both from worse indignities. But you can't kick a woman who gives you no excuse. And he knew he had to make use of her. He felt like kicking himself.

"Well," he repeated, "I'm sorry I kissed you."

It was a lie. He wasn't sorry. Neither was she, obviously, but she made not even a hint of a suggestion that she would like him to do it again.

"Don't be sorry," she said calmly.

It was her competence that bothered him—the easy assurance with which she took his decency for granted and revealed her own by restraint. He was wondering what to say next when the eunuch, in the courtyard, drew a finger down the slatted window-blind to attract attention; Roddy's ear did not catch the one word that he said in a low voice. Lillilee promptly unbolted the front door. The eunuch entered through the rear door and stood with his back against it. He was big-bellied. He looked powerful but full of philosophic calm. He wore a teacher's turban, but he had as many weapons as a bandit.

There was sudden commotion at the front door—horses—voices. Lillilee gestured to Roddy to open the door and then hurried away from it to stand near the eunuch. She looked excited. She gestured again, so Roddy opened the door. Blazing white light—dust—and on the threshold stood a middle-aged Bedouin, wrinkled and bronzed, with a graying beard and a face neither sly nor cunning, but suspicious, alert, good natured and yet ruthless. He wore two amber necklaces worth a shaikh's ransom. Horses behind him raised a cloud of sun-lit dust as they stamped at the stinging Zakkum flies.

He had a deep voice for an Arab: "Peace in the name of the Giver of Life, and on His Prophet blessings upon blessings."

"Peace," said Roddy. "On His Prophet blessings."

"Peace to this house."

"Peace," said Roddy.

The shaikh entered. His eyes avoided Lillilee. He addressed the eunuch in terms of deep respect. The eunuch bowed gravely. Lillilee came forward and took Roddy's hand, but the shaikh avoided looking at her; he looked at Roddy. She spoke in Arabic:

"My father, this man's name is Roddy, but his other name I know not. I present him to you."

The shaikh bowed.

"Roddy, this is his honor the Shaikh Abdul Harrash, of the Ben-i-Harrash."

Roddy bowed. They looked in each other's eyes, neither of them eager to break silence. There was a long pause. Lillilee spoke, again in Arabic: "His honor the Shaikh Abdul Harrash, hearing of you, has brought a horse for your use while in Zakkum. It can stay in Paulos Kamarajes' stable. There is also a servant to take care of the horse."

The shaikh bowed. Roddy recalled the proper phrases that a man of breeding and c should employ in acknowledging a favor from an equal. The shaikh murmured polite responses. They walked out to examine the horse—a magnificent, clean-limbed stallion, with the dished face and intelligent eyes that are the sign of the true strain. A group of the shaikh's attendants stood at their horses' heads in silence. Lillilee, invisible behind the half-closed door, spoke English:

"Coffee for all in a moment. After that, it is polite to ride with him part of the way home."

SHE had evidently summoned one of Kamarajes' servants; there was a rattle of cups; the all-penetrating aroma of coffee stole forth to war with the stink of the street. Coffee, horse-sweat, and the smell of men wholesome with sun and wind—life was beginning to loom large; Lillilee seemed less like a devil's advocate and more like a guide to a high road leading who cared whither? Roddy displayed his knowledge of an Arab horse's points, until the shaikh's attendants grunted approval; but his mind was on Lillilee and his imagination rioted unreined; he thought of life as it might be, but for a man's own self-imprisonment in useless fear—of what?

When he led the shaikh and his attendants indoors for the conventional coffee (in cups that looked like loot from an old-time Turkish pasha's harem) it was almost with a shock that he discovered Lillilee had vanished. Of course, it would have been bad manners to remain; she had overstepped the ordinary limits of propriety by making the introduction, even in the presence of the eunuch. But she seemed quite capable of ignoring all rules when it suited her purpose. He could not speak of her to the shaikh. They talked horse, until Abdul Harrash asked him how many barrels of gasoline had been brought by the ship. It was a puzzling question—sudden—apropos of nothing—tacked to the end of a discourse on the effect of certain kinds of sand on horses' fetlocks.

"I don't know," said Roddy. Then he read in the shaikh's eyes something like resentment, so he added: "But I think there are ten barrels lashed on deck. They are steel drums—big ones."

The shaikh's eyes changed. He appeared delighted. That was apparently what he was there to learn; he and his attendants exchanged glances. And then Roddy recognized the vague, indefinable signal that invited him to "give them leave to go," so he stood up and spoke the conventional phrase.

It was a good idea to sec the shaikh on his way; that girl's head seemed full of bright thoughts. It would not only be the acme of politeness, such as a Bedouin never forgets; a new friend to the good is one possible enemy less. It would be a good way, too, of avoiding Max, if he should come ashore as the Greek expected. To meet Max might lead to a quarrel; worse yet, it might mean reconciliation. But very probably the shaikh might be hesitating to say in Zakkum something that would leap from his lips on the fringe of the desert where there are no spies. Why had he asked about gasoline? There must be something more behind that question. There was plenty of time; there would hardly be a chance to get an audience with the Sultan before four o'clock or even later.

So Roddy followed the shaikh to the street. The loaned horse, unaccustomed to a white man's smell, reared and tried to break away; Roddy mounted him on the run to create a good impression on the observant Bedouins. He and the shaikh rode out of Zakkum together like dust-devils born of the heat of the street.


SILENCE is the voice of doubt and mistrust. Roddy doubted the horse he was riding; it had a fair turn of speed, but it stumbled carelessly. He doubted that the loan of the horse could be anything else than a bid by the shaikh for Lillilee's favor. Arabs have their own inviolable code. That the shaikh had avoided looking at her was no proof he was not burning for her. On the contrary, it was almost proof of an intrigue, from which Roddy more than doubted his chance of escaping alive, unless he was shrewd and lucky. Those who think they see loopholes in the Arabs' code concerning women seldom live to explain. So Roddy shuddered as they galloped past the hell-tree and then slowed to the easy lope that eats up distance without tiring horse or rider.


The Shaikh Abdul Harrash, being a Bedouin, was a skeptic by birth, an incredulous fatalist by tradition, a doubter of everything but Allah's wisdom, and a dweller by force of circumstances in a desert that imposes silence to preserve the mucous membrane from scorching wind. So there was no conversation.

It was proper manners to accompany the shaikh until the shaikh himself should call a halt. The farther one accompanies a man on his journey, the greater the compliment; and the farther along the road he lets his acquaintance ride before dismissing him, the stronger the implication that he enjoys his company and dislikes the prospect of parting. So there was nothing alarming about the distance they rode—mile after almost trackless mile in silence. But every hoof-beat increased Roddy's perplexity. Why should this desert chieftain go to such extremes of courtesy on such short acquaintance?

Zakkum was six or seven miles behind, a graceless scab against an azure sky, when the shaikh at last reined to a walk and then halted as they reached the summit of a naked dune. Even there he said nothing. No one spoke. His followers reined their horses beside him and Roddy, and they all stared at the shaikh's encampment—an irregular cluster of tents surrounding a tamarisk-pole scaffold, over a well in a hollow. There were about fifty mares picketed in groups; about a hundred camels; something like a thousand sheep and goats that seemed to find subsistence in the bed of a fiumara* that wrinkled across the desert toward the distant hills; there seemed to be about a hundred women, and nearly as many children. Men were not in evidence, barring a few who lazed on guard or loafed about the horse lines.

* Dry watercourse.

It was evidently not a war encampment. Neither party to an Arab raid molests the others' women, but they leave their women in some remote places. Where were the men? It was risky to ask; the shaikh might consider the question impudent. Yet why did he wish Roddy to observe the encampment? Did he want him to sec that the men were not there? Was the implication that the men were where they should be? Very well—where? Why? Silence seemed to be the acceptable comment. But it is always safe, in any circumstances, in Arabia to mention God's omniscience and man's abject wonder. Roddy was good at it:

"Aywah! The Door standeth on its heel," he exclaimed. "None knoweth, save only Allah. That which is written, verily it shall come to pass."

"Yaum mubarak! Even infidels shall praise Thee! Here we are, O Allah! There is none beside Thee. Prosper Thy servants, and may blessings be upon The Prophet," said Abdul Harrash.

But there was a smile in the shaikh's eyes. All Arabs, and especially the reverent sons of the desert, use a definite inflexion when they ask a blessing on Allah's Prophet. Abdul Harrash had not used it, and he had said "The" not "Thy" Prophet. There was a smile in his voice, too, although his lips were solemn. Was it possible that Kamarajes had already spread that joke about the name of Roddy's horse, so diligently that it served to tip the point of a hint, even here in the desert?

The shaikh's men were smiling; they lacked their chieftain's self-restraint. It occurred to Roddy he was being credited with intimate knowledge of some intrigue, of which he actually knew nothing whatever.

Horse sense, which is the same as shrewdness, warned him it might be disastrous to confess his ignorance. Silence, because you have nothing to tell, is much wiser than haste to be told, ninety-nine times in a hundred.

"Allah yahdik!" said Abdul Harrash, and that was another conundrum. "'God direct thee' might imply 'and make of thee a good Moslem;' the phrase is often used with that significance. But it also might mean 'we understand each other. Trust in God and keep your powder dry,' eh?"

"Allah rewardeth His friends," said Roddy.

"Mash'allah! Taib! Allaho Akbar!" There was a chorus of approving comment. Then the shaikh dismissed Roddy:

"Nahnu malikin." (We are bound together by the salt.) "La'adamnak." (i.e. come again soon.) "Aywah! That one—he shall be the farrash."

HE threatened the man whom he indicated with dreadful mayhem should he fail in his duty. Roddy rode away feeling that, no matter what might happen now, there would be a man at his back to guard him against treachery. A farrash, in the normal meaning of the word, is a rather mean factotum, who pitches tents and administers floggings; but the fellow who now rode behind him, with a rifle in a sling and a knife at his belt, was a wind-weaned fighting man if ever Roddy saw one. Half a glance at the man was enough to provide a feeling of comfort up the spine. But the same half-glance suggested that danger was on its toes, or the man wouldn't be there.

Roddy rode slowly to save the borrowed horse; like so many Arab horses this was a lazy one, but there was no sense in forcing the pace. It was four in the afternoon before he was near enough to Zakkum to notice riflemen watching the three gates and the broken gaps in the wall from battlemented towers that the Turks had built in the days of Abdul Hamid. There might be no present restriction against entering the city, but the Sultan evidently kept himself informed who came and went. Roddy rode through the Gate of the Doomed that he had used previously. Then he turned directly toward the palace, where the daily public audience, that no Arab ruler would dare to neglect, should be due to commence. As a matter of fact he arrived late, but that was nothing to worry about; to have been ahead of time, or even punctual, might have suggested anxiety.

There was a man in the courtyard being bastinadoed. It was a good show for the Red Sea littoral; the crowd was being kept back by blows and abuse from breaking the line to get a better view. The writhing culprit lay face upward, with his bare feet held in the air in stocks consisting of two poles lashed to uprights. After every fifth blow on the lacerated feet, the operator of the stripped date-palm fronds paused to repeat the announcement of the crime. The culprit had sold twenty rifle cartridges to a man from the desert. He was to receive twenty blows on the feet for each cartridge.

There was nothing that Roddy could do about that. He entered the bare-walled vestibule of the audience hall. There were only a few Arabs in the vestibule, but he could see through an open door about a hundred of them squatting on a chamber floor facing a low platform. On the platform there were two white-robed secretaries, but no kadi, no Sultan on the seat at the low table. Before Roddy reached that open door his shirt-sleeve was plucked by a black-faced underling who led him toward a dosed door in a corner over to the right. He was almost hustled into a small chamber where the light was so dim that he could see almost nothing. The door closed behind him. Lillilee came forward out of the gloom. For a moment he hardly recognized her. She was wearing a burka. She tossed that up out of the way, but laid a finger on her lips, so he asked no questions.

Judging by her eyes, she was half-frantic with suppressed excitement. Her hand, as she laid it on his, trembled. She was dressed entirely in black and it made her look small, although her eyes looked larger. She led Roddy toward a smaller door, at the far end, and through that into utter darkness. When she had dosed that door and bolted it, she raised a strip of leather on the wall, and it was obvious then in a moment that they were in a spy-hole where an unsuspected guard could keep the Sultan under observation; there were slits in the wall, through which to watch, listen and shoot if necessary.

The Sultan, foxy and unfriendly looking, sat on cushions on a red plush settee, from which most of the gilt had peeled long ago. He was smoking an American cigarette, which he seemed not to enjoy very much. Facing him, on a comfortless chair that matched the settee, was Max Rector, hot and very obviously angry; he had one leg crossed over the other and had folded his arms in an attempt to appear judicial and iron-willed. Kamarajes, evidently acting interpreter, stood with his back toward Roddy. MacNamara and the first mate of the Blue Heron sat on bent-wood chairs facing Kamarajes. MacNamara looked pious, and the first mate stubborn.

"But my fishermen say you broke their heads," remarked the Sultan, "and by Allah that is a strange way of keeping the peace."

KAMARAJES' translation of that was a masterpiece, without a trace of hesitation. "He says," said Kamarajes, "that your yacht has broken all the regulations. That you have shown no papers, but have thrown his officials overboard. So he will send his men to seize the yacht unless you make an honorable compensation."

"Tell him he's mistaken," Max retorted. "There were no officials—none that I saw, anyhow. A lot of roughnecks invaded the yacht and were merely removed without unnecessary violence."

Kamarajes changed that into Arabic: "He says: what have you done with my friend, and with the horse that he brought ashore this morning?"

"Tell him," said the Sultan, "that his friend is retained as a hostage."

"He says," said Kamarajes, "that your friend is a hostage, and that he will be thrown into prison unless you make an honorable compensation for the outrage, of which there were many witnesses."

MacNamara clucked with apprehension: "Man, ye canna let that happen. It wad stain y'r reputation f'r a' time."

The mate grunted. "Mr. Roddy Nolan is a white man, tell him. We won't stand for—"

MacNamara interrupted: "Tu-tut—no indiscretions now! Let's find a way oot. I'd suggest we'll put yon jetty and its crane in verra good repair as compensation for an unintentional but seerious affront to his offeecial dignity. Man, that wad cost ye next to nothing. We've a spare spar that the shipwright stuck ye with for no reason at all. We've twenty or thirty fathom o' one-inch chain ye'll never miss; it mak's rust in our bilge; ye'd better throw it overboard than keep it. We've spikes. And we've plenty o' two-inch teak planks that ye brought for a camp ye said ye have in mind. Ye can pick up all the teak ye need in India, in a buyer's market. Ye'll restore the economic prosper-r-ity o' Zakkum if ye mend yon jetty."

"The men are needed for work on the engines," Max answered curtly.

"Engines are my responsibeelity," said MacNamara. "The men are in one anither's way, now that the wor-r-st part's over. I could spare ye a fitter and four or maybe five men, if f'r genius f'r diplomatic bar-r-gaining suggested to ye that yon jetty is the key to efficacious—"

"Oh, all right," Max interrupted. "Did you hear that? Suggest it. Say it's much more than I feel he's entitled to. But I'll make that concession if he'll overlook what was after all a very natural and excusable display of irritation on the part of my crew." He stroked his chin. He uncrossed his legs. He felt superior again, and condescending. He was ready to go now.

Kamarajes turned the offer into Arabic without diluting it. There was a rapid flow of low-voiced conversation between him and the Sultan that Roddy could not quite overhear. Then Kamarajes smiled at Max:

"He says, he accepts that offer, because it will be good for the fishermen. They 10 are his people, and it is they whose heads were broken. But he calls God to witness that his honor has been violated, so he asks what will you do about that?"

"Tell him I'll apologize, if that's what he wants."

Kamarajes used Arabic phrases that artfully exaggerated Max's insolence. Lillilee pressed Roddy's hand in the dark. He could see her smile by the light through the slit in the wall. She was inviting his approval. It was her plan, evidently. She had thought of all this; her expression said so. It was she who had put Kamarajes up to it, and she knew what was coming. Roddy put his arm around her, telling himself he was mad.

He should have stood on his dignity; he should have shown resentment. But he felt none to show. The sensation was of losing all he had, and finding something better. She snuggled closer like a child. Nothing could have gone straighter than that to Roddy's good will. Confidence always touched him. Trust Roddy, and you could bet on him as long as he had breath.

Kamarajes turned to Max: "He says, apology is the rain of fair words watering the seed of eagerness to make amends. But what else?"

"What does he want now?" Max grumbled.

"Gasoline," said Kamarajes. "How about Mr. Roddy Nolan's hor-r-se?" asked MacNamara.

LILLILEE nudged Roddy with a wriggle of delight that thrilled every nerve in her body, and his too. It was a squeal unuttered, born of exquisite artistic pride, restrained by prudence. She was showing him proof of her genius, inviting his praise, and his only. Her delight was as intoxicating as the scent of her hair. But Roddy had to listen to what was going on. To keep her quiet (said the last Of his scruples) he hugged her closer to him; but the man in him mocked that mental alibi.

He was over the fence, and he knew it. No half-measures. To hell with society.

"It is Mr. Nolan's horse, not mine," Max protested.

"The Sultan says it is his horse," Kamarajes answered. "Mr. Nolan, he says, gave it to him as a bucksheesh to adorn a request that the yacht might have protection while at anchor. Let me tell you, it is unwise to contradict a sultan!"

Max exploded. "Nonsense! Never heard of such a thing! I wouldn't dream of letting Mr. Nolan pay for my protection, as you call it. Mr. Nolan can't afford anything of the sort. It's ridiculous. Tell him he will give that horse back, if he has any self-respect."

"Chut-chut-chut!" exclaimed MacNamara.

Kamarajes gave another exhibition of his skill as an interpreter:

"This distinguished effendi says his friend beggared himself for the sake of friendship by presenting that horse to your highness. It was the act of an over-magnanimous guest alarmed for his host's safety. Believing that your highness also is magnanimous, as all true Moslems are, he offers to submit to the judgment of Allah."

Roddy held his breath. The bird is usually in the net before a Greek proposes to trust Allah.

The Sultan answered: "How much gasoline will he give in exchange for the horse?"

That was a shock. Roddy gritted his teeth. He would almost prefer to lose the horse than to have Max buy it back. He had had enough of Max's favors; they were too expensive of humiliation. But Kamarajes let himself be guided by his conscience; he interpreted promptly, with the matter-of-fact calm of a neutral who had nothing at stake:

"His highness wants to see that big horse gallop. Borrow a horse, he says, and he will race you for ten drums of gasoline, winner-take-all."

"Spoken like a sporr-rtsman!" said MacNamara.

"Good enough," said the mate. "Can you get us a horse that can beat Mr. Nolan's?"

"Sure," said Kamarajes. "Almost any horse could beat him if the race is soon enough."

"And if the race is long enough," said MacNamara. "Let us fir-r-st know the condeetions. Winner-take-all means—"

"In Arabia the winner gets the loser's horse, jockey and wager," said Kamarajes.

"Is Mr. Roddy Nolan to ride the other horse?" the mate objected. "If he should happen to lose, he and his horse and a bet would all fall to the Sultan? Well, we'd have to ransom Mr. Roddy Nolan. That's no wager for a white man."

"No," said Kamarajes. "So instead of him, you stake the gasoline along with the horse, against the Sultan's horse and jockey."

"And a bet," said MacNamara.

Max wiped the sweat off his face and adjusted his pince-nez. "Do I understand correctly," he asked, "that the Sultan offers this—ah—horse-race as—ah—an excuse for returning the horse?"

"Sure. He couldn't surrender a gift," said Kamarajes. "If he gave the horse back, all these Arabs would say he is afraid to keep it. Rulers have to think of things like that."

"Oh, very well," said Max. "I agree, if Mr. Nolan will give his consent. I don't see that it can cost me anything."

"Unless we lose the race," said MacNamara. "Man, ye'll have to post y'r forfeit."

Kamarajes started at once to interpret, turning his back toward Max, giving him no chance to withdraw. He threw a half-heroic pose as he addressed the Sultan.

"Taib," said the Sultan, evidently pleased.

"It's a bet," said Kamarajes. He dictated the terms of the bet to the Arab secretary, who wrote them down and handed a copy to Kamarajes, to give to Max, but Kamarajes put it in his pocket.

"On ye place me a bet on the race?" asked MacNamara.

Kamarajes nodded. The Sultan commenced the restless movements that precede the conventional phrases which dismiss an assembled company. Lillilee tugged at Roddy, closed the flap over the slits in the wall, and guided him in total darkness to the door. He was about to speak, but she put her hand on his lips. He put both arms around her, but she slipped away from him. When she opened the door her face was hidden by the burka. She pushed him out almost into the arms of the eunuch, who smiled but made no comment.


HOW the failures get their crumb of mercy is more interesting than how the merciless use Success. There is no Red Cross in Zakkum. To befriend a victim of the sultan's anger is even less prudent than to endorse a borrower's note to a money-lender. Roddy mounted his horse in the courtyard, and from that safe position considered the seller of twenty cartridges. The flies were busy with him. He lay in a pool of his own blood. He was a problem in the curiously occult science of minding one's own business without being too hard-boiled.

Roddy's hand instinctively went to his pocket, money being the bait with which to get other people to tempt providence. However, just then two men strolled up with a crude ox-hide stretcher. They made scurrilous comments and invited God to bear them witness that a dung-heap was a proper place for such a vulture's banquet. No one contradicted them, so they threw the unconscious victim on to the stretcher and walked off with him, laughing contemptuously. They were naked, except for twisted calico turbans and thin cotton shorts. They looked like anybody's slaves—perhaps grave-diggers. But Roddy thought he recognized one of them as Kamarajes' Swahili servant. He was not quite sure, because change of turbans makes a big difference, and one naked, black torso looks much like another.

Then came Max Rector's party, before Roddy could escape without the appearance of running away. So he dismounted and asked the farrash to change the stirrup-length, standing close to the horse to watch him do it. But Max walked straight up to him:

"Why, hello. Got yourself a new horse already? Did you buy or hire him?"


"Well, that's splendid. Say, old fellow, I believe we had a slight misunderstanding. We were both upset. I think we lost our tempers. Let's forget it. To show you my real feelings, I've just come from interviewing the Sultan. He thinks you made him a present of your horse and no mistake. Perhaps your Arabic's a bit rusty. You may have used a wrong phrase or something. Anyhow, he needed diplomatic handling. I had to let him save face, you understand. So I suggested a horse-race—winner-take-all. D'you get the point of that? Any horse could beat The Prophet while he's out of condition. All you have to do is to race, and win your own horse back. How about that? Better shake hands, hadn't we?"

Roddy shook hands. What was the use of refusing? Max mistook his smile for gratitude.

"Now, I'll tell you a good joke. It seems the system here is for the winner to take the loser's horse and jockey. You'd better ride like the devil or you'll find yourself on the Sultan's pay-roll! I imagine the pay consists of dates and dead fish."

"Well, a job's a job," said Roddy. He was looking beyond Max at MacNamara. The engineer was winking; the first mate was stuffing a handkerchief into his mouth. Max misinterpreted Roddy's effort to keep a straight face.

"No, no, I wasn't serious. I post a forfeit to represent you; but that's a mere formality. This is the joke: you remember that lad we hired at Port Said, who deserted at Suez? Well, I found out this morning after you left, that his desertion wasn't entered on the yacht's log. Remember, I hired him because he had an Indian immigration permit?

"That's still among the papers in the strong-box. Well, you win a horse-boy who can land in Bombay without any trouble from the port authorities. How's that for a finesse? You won't have to do stable-work for the rest of the voyage."

"You'll be charged with kidnaping," said Roddy. He had to say something to explain the grin he couldn't control.

"Nonsense, my dear fellow. Do you suppose there's a slave in Zakkum who wouldn't change his name and give his eye-teeth to go to India on someone's payroll? Who'll complain? Not he, I'll bet you."

Roddy had to appear ignorant, so he thought of another question:

"When's the race to be?"

"The sooner the better. MacNamara tells me they're having better luck in the engine-room than he looked for. Come aboard now and have a cocktail."

"Thanks, I'd better stay ashore and watch points. There might be trickery connected with this race unless I'm careful."

But Max craved Roddy's company. "Tell you what I'll do," he said. "Kamarajes says the Sultan needs gasoline. First thing in the morning you can take him a couple of drums. Come on. I'll wait while you stable the horse, and—"

"No," said Roddy. "I'll stay here and make inquiries."

"THAT damned woman, eh? Well—don't, for God's sake, let her get you into another mess. I think I've got you out of this one all right, but—"

"Would you give her a passage to Bombay?" Roddy interrupted.

"No, my dear fellow. Not even for you. Be reasonable. You can't expect me to carry a woman to Bombay, simply because you lose your head about her. Even if it weren't risky I wouldn't do it."

"No harm in my asking, I suppose?"

"No, no harm asking. I'm glad you did. That leaves no chance for a misunderstanding. Well—you won't come aboard now?"

"Not yet."

Max walked off attempting to conceal his thoughts. The very angle of his yachting cap suggested that men of standing should not expect much gratitude. MacNamara tried to get a word with Roddy, but Max beckoned him and the mate and the three took a short cut to the beach. Kamarajes had vanished, so Roddy rode to the store to look for him. He was met at the door by a servant who told the farrash where to stable the horses. Roddy dismounted and walked in.

On the table lay the victim of the bastinado, slowly recovering consciousness. The place reeked of iodoform. Kamarajes had already washed, and was now bandaging the victim's feet.

"I was a hospital orderly once," he said, grinning at Roddy. "Made more friends by that than you could count. Here's a new one—all ambition and no brains. Thought the Sultan hadn't any brains either. Maybe he hasn't a whole lot. But he knows if the tribes in the desert had ammunition, politics might get too lively for him. So the Sultan keeps a look-out and you have to use brains in the ammunition business."

"Where did he get the cartridges he sold?" asked Roddy.

"Bought 'em from the Sultan's bodyguard and sold 'em to a spy. There's talent for you! Rob the rich, and give the poor a chance to help 'emselves, but watch your step, that's my motto."

His two servants returned the victim to the stretcher and carried him out through the back door. Kamarajes produced a whiskey bottle.

"Talk," said Roddy. "You have told me too much or too little."

"Don't you believe it. Mister. What you don't know isn't evidence. You heard tell of my being in Ayyub's prison? It's a mean place. Abdul Harrash, who lent you a horse, used to pay a man to bring me food fit to eat. Do you make friends by beating 'em and starving 'em in a lousy prison, or by taking a chance to do 'em a good turn when they need it? Think that over."

Roddy thought it over. It seemed fairly clear that Kamarajes was playing a deep game, in which Sultan Ayyub was a foredoomed loser. Kamarajes poured two drinks and volunteered some further scraps of information:

"Sultan Ayyub would double-cross himself if he could get away with it. He kids himself he's going to win your horse, plus ten drums of gasoline. He'll fix the race—I said 'fix it,' didn't I?—for day after tomorrow, so you'll feel good and confident The Prophet can't possibly win. Tomorrow morning you interview him. You agree to everything—catch weights—one mile, over the usual course around the cemetery—you to ride any horse you can get; he'll understand you might not trust an Arab jockey. Winner-take-all, remember. But you can't swap tribes, so to speak, the way the Arabs do when they lose a horse-race, so Horse's Rump stands in place of your chieftain and posts ten drums of gasoline as forfeit for you in case you lose. Me—I'm interpreter, that's all I am. I have nothing to do with it."

"But Lillilee?"

"It's her plan. She advises the Sultan. You see—drink up, Mister—she's on the level. There's a eunuch, who'd be bastinadoed and worse; and there's me, who might laud in one hell of a mess, if Lillilee should leave Zakkum surreptitious. We're good guys. Ayyub isn't. It's only public opinion that kept him from locking her up in the harem. She'll commit Ayyub in public, so that if she goes away from Zakkum he can't strafe other people for it."

"She can't get away on the yacht," said Roddy. "Max Rector won't hear of it."

"No? Well, I never saw a horse's rump yet that could listen to reason. Has he heard how MacNamara lost his money on a horse in Alexandria, and knows me, and might be willing to do me a slight favor, if it made him a bit for himself on the side? There's more to this than luck. Mister. No denying we were lucky to have that yacht turn up at Alexandria. But the rest was head-work. Luck don't interfere with engines—not that kind. Engineers can lie as good as a witness in a law-suit. Luck don't fall twice in the same place so often that it's safe to bet. So we're leaving nothing else to luck. Sultan Ayyub isn't. I'm not. Lillilee isn't. Abdul Harrash isn't—and don't you. Day after tomorrow you ride like the devil, to win, and no mistake about it. Someone has to lose, whenever someone wins, remember. Let them lose who can afford it."

RODDY would have liked to ask a dozen questions. But he sensed that Kamarajes might close up like a clam, or worse, might tell lies under direct questioning.

It was more prudent to seem idly curious about irrelevant matters:

"Why aren't the followers of Abdul Harrash in camp?" he asked.

Kamarajes eyed Roddy over the top of his glass. "All the way from the fiumara to Zakkum they could be seen coming, if they did come, couldn't they?" he answered. "But if they were sent off into the desert, to do Sultan Ayyub a favor, that might make him unsuspicious, mightn't it? And if they were to make a circuit, and come along the bed of the deep waddy to the northward, and along the beach below the dunes, and into Zakkum that way, who'd expect that? It's a custom in Arabia that anyone who owns a horse can get into any horse-race. It's like a fight in Chicago. Get in or stay out. But if you get in, take the consequences."

"Where's Lillilee?" asked Roddy. "I want to speak to her again."

"Mister, she'll abuse no man's confidence. You leave her to her own devices. Tonight she has to dance for Sultan Ayyub. That gives him bats in the belfry. You don't know an Arab the way she does, or the way I do. If a smart girl wriggles her stomach at him, the way she can, he's amenable. It's like drink to a buyer from Oshkosh, or a roulette wheel to a policy sharp. It makes him think he can beat any game in the world. All we need is to keep Ayyub flattered and feeling crooked. Then he'll be safe for us who're on the level."

"When do I see the Sultan?"

"Come ashore tomorrow morning. Mister, and I'll arrange it."


MAX ignored signals from the end of the jetty. That was his way of showing resentment for having had to return to the yacht without Roddy, who had plenty of time to observe that the jetty needed not much doing to it beyond the replacement of some rotted timber. Any competent mechanic could repair the hand-crane in a day, given tools and some iron bolts. The sun went down—a huge disc dropping suddenly below the rim of the world—and the stars shone on the eastern darkness, but there was no sign of the tender. Roddy felt hungry and needed a bath. Both those sensations are irritants. He cursed Max. He felt no pity for him. He hoped Max would get thoroughly stung, whatever else might happen.

Out of darkness behind him a hand touched his. A shadow stole to his side. Amid the stench of rotting fish and seaweed he could smell the aroma of someone clean and healthy. Lillilee's hair touched his jaw. He put his arm around her without turning his head to look at her. "Angry?" she asked. "Worried."

"But you know now what will happen?"

"I don't know what will happen to you."

"But you care. So I will make sure it shall happen no matter what comes of it."

It was true he cared. But what the devil could he do about it? He didn't answer. Silently he cursed Max. If only Max were a decent fellow—

"It is for me, not for you to do this," said the quiet voice beside him. "It is not for me to make your difficulties greater." Then she spoke Arabic: "Because of thee I made choice, whithersoever thou goest I will be contented. Such as I am, I am thy friend—aye, in adversity also. Be thy sorrow mine and I will bear it. Thy success is my reward; let me but see it, and that is enough. I ask nothing but to be thy friend and servant."

"Look here," he said gruffly. "I can't you—not now. It's impossible." His arm held her tight; he hardly knew it. "I can give you some money. You can't come away on the yacht."

"But I promise never to cause trouble—"

"I tell you, you can't come on the yacht."

"But if I could?"

"It isn't my yacht."

"But if it were?"

"I would take you to Bombay."

"Good," she answered. "Ride like the devil, to win, and be surprised at nothing!"

She was gone, out from his arm like a shadow and one with the dusk, leaving a faint scent behind her. He heard her footsteps creak along the jetty. He caught one glimpse of the portly eunuch. Then he heard the throb of the tender's propeller and saw the little electric headlight chasing its own reflection on the dark sea.

MacNamara stepped out from the tender and climbed to the jetty, pretending to examine the broken crane with an electric torch. He spoke low, not to be heard by the coxswain.

"I told yon bag o' deevidends I saw y'r signals, but he thinks he's Admiral Nelson. Man, ye smell like a boudoir. Losh, if I were young again I'd pick a quarrel. Listen. I've arr-r-ranged to mend this jetty at yon lunatic's expense, because one good tur-rn deserves anither. Though I credit ye with no intention o' providing for my auld age, there's an inceedental by-product o' oor acquaintance, and f'r that I feel beholden to ye. How could ye get that ramping monster of a hor-r-se to yon scow in a hurry, unless I mend the crane and make the jetty safe f'r high falutin's. Had ye thought o' it? Ye had not. However, ye'Il find the hor-r-se-box on the jetty. Ride y'r hor-r-se into it. Lower away. We'll have the tender bridled to the scow. We'll tow ye to the yacht too fast f'r any Arabs to follow."

"You seem sure I'll have the horse."

"Man, I know it. But there's one word o' warr-rning I have f'r y'r private ear. Yon loon intends to send two drums o* gasoline ashore tomorrow morning as a bucksheesh f'r the Sultan. He mustn't do it."

"Why not?"

"That's none o' y'r business. But prevent it, or ye'll lose y'r hor-r-se forever. Talk him out o' such foolishness."

"What shall I say?"

"Have ye no imagination? Think o' something. Use y'r char-r-m o' personality and skill o' logic. And not a word in the tender. Mind, that coxswain's talkative."


THAT was a hectic night. Roddy had to pace the deck with Max and listen to an alternating flow of boasting and lamentation. Max was worried about the fishing boats that kept watch on the yacht from just beyond moderate rifle-range. He boasted about the sporting rifles in the chart room, and of his own skill as a marksman. But he had the jitters. Over and over again he repeated he would let the horse go hang and up-anchor and leave, if only MacNamara were not such an idiot.

"That drunken Scotchman is up to mischief, but I can't imagine what his game is. I believe we could get away in a couple of hours if MacNamara saw fit. He says that some infernal spare part doesn't fit and has to be shaped in by hand. But I don't believe him. First it was to be ten days. Now it's perhaps three! He'll have to look for another ship in Bombay. I'm through with him."

Even when Max turned in, Roddy was sleepless and continued pacing the deck. Zakkum under the stars was a blotch of velvet darkness pricked by pin-holes of lamplight. But the white beach was luminous; he could make out to the northward the shadowy mouth of the fiumara, along which Kamarajes had suggested that Shaikh Abdul Harrash could bring men into the city. They would have to ride along the beach and enter where the north wall was broken in several places; and unless expected, they could possibly arrive unseen. But what for?

Speculation about Shaikh Abdul Harrash and his men occupied only minutes; if there was to be fighting, fighting there would be. It might be fun or it might not. No use guessing. The hours were spent staring at Zakkum. There was a light on a roof. Now and then, if one watched it closely, it disappeared for a moment, as if someone passed in front of it. Lillilee? Was she walking the roof? Or was she dancing in the palace? Roddy couldn't see the palace; but he could imagine her, as Kamarajes had described it, "shaking her stomach" at Sultan Ayyub. Roddy considered himself hard-boiled, but he preferred to imagine her pacing the roof.

What should he do with her? Money? The Greek might cash the draft on Bombay. Oh, the hell with money! Sultry Red Sea nights make doubt a torment worse than pain. Roddy stripped to the waist. Later, he stripped naked. He took a shower every twenty or thirty minutes. He wondered what infernal quackery the Sultan's stable-master might be using on The

Prophet to make him fit to gallop. Those damned Arabs would probably ruin the horse. Could the Sultan be such an idiot as to believe he could win a mile race with a horse just landed? But it seemed a curiously roundabout and futile way of returning the horse to its owner.


Who stood to gain what? Lillilee wanted the Sultan's permission to leave Zakkum, so that the friends she would leave behind her might not be punished, as they would be, cruelly, if she should leave without permission. Well and good; there was only one possible deduction from that. With or without the Sultan's knowledge, she proposed to ride The Prophet and lose the race. She would be the legitimate prize of the winner, and all Zakkum would know it. The Sultan would have no one but himself to blame; and probably public opinion would prevent him from punishing Lillilee's friends. But what good would it do? She couldn't come on the yacht. Unless—

Was she proposing to come as horse-boy? Had that old pirate MacNamara planted on the yacht a young lad with an

Indian immigration permit, and kicked him off, or perhaps paid him to desert in Suez, as a move toward getting Lillilee away from Zakkum? MacNamara seemed capable of almost any intrigue that had a sporting flavor. Kamarajes had distinctly hinted that there was nothing really wrong with the engines. MacNamara might go to all that trouble, and risk his certificate, to repay Kamarajes for a kindness. He might. But it seemed a big risk to run for a small return. And neither he nor Kamarajes could possibly have known beforehand that the yacht would touch at Alexandria. MacNamara must have waited there for a suitable ship to turn up. Waited at Kamarajes' expense? Whose else? If so, there must be money in it. That Greek was not in Zakkum for his health; even for Lillilee's sake, he was hardly likely to invest much money without the prospect of a good fat profit.

BUT where was the profit to come from? Betting on a "fixed" horse-race? Hardly. There seemed to be one or two unknowns in the equation that had not yet as much as revealed themselves. Funnily enough, the only two clear points were intangibles, like the items of good-will and accounts receivable in an otherwise incomprehensible balance sheet. One was that he, Roddy, was being used in a conspiracy, but was being carefully preserved from guilty knowledge of it, just as certainly as Max Rector was being played without mercy. Somehow Max seemed destined to produce the profit, but it would be as much use warning Max as talking to the back-side of a mule.

The other point was Lillilee's attitude. Roddy told himself again and again, as he paced the dew-wet deck, that Lillilee was simply snatching at a chance that had turned up. It was only reasonable to suppose that. And why shouldn't she snatch? What girl in her shoes wouldn't? If she intended to smuggle herself on the yacht as horse-boy, which seemed probable, her obvious cue would be to flatter the horse's owner and gain his confidence; the owner of the yacht would then be easier to circumvent, and even should he prosecute her in Bombay she would have a friend to help her through that difficulty. She had talked like a poet, said reason, but poets sell their phrases for the same reason that men sell horses, and "caveat emptor." The ground-swell, sloshing around a nearby reef, took reason's view of it:

"Be—ware! Be—ware!"

But reason lost the argument. Roddy stared at the distant roof again. Imagination ceased from inventing ifs and whys. It leaped forward to Bombay and beyond. She and he had spoken to each other on the inside line that is insulated from argument; it communicates nothing but naked fact, in secret, one man to one woman. What should he do with her?

"Wisdom? Max is wise," thought Roddy. "He has a house, a yacht, a bank account and a damned mean disposition. I'm not wise, thank the Lord. What am I? Damned if I know. But I do know a straight insider when I see her. I know when I like a woman. And I know when I'm jolly well game to chance my neck. This is when."

He was pacing the deck at sunrise and saw Kamarajes arrive in an Arab fishing boat. He saw him talking to MacNamara. He had a notion to go ashore in the fishing boat, so he strolled aft to ask the Greek to wait while he shaved and dressed. But Kamarajes had other ideas.

"Don't come ashore. Mister. Tomorrow everything will be ready. I saw the Sultan late last night, and he left it to me to make arrangements. Your horse will be ready for you tomorrow afternoon near the starting post, and I'll come and get you at four o'clock. The course will be marked with flags and sticks, and the only rule is that competitors must keep between the markers; if you pass one on the outside, you have to ride back and pass it on the inside. You're to put the drums of gasoline on to the jetty, but that's MacNamara's job and he'll do it. Your job. Mister, is to ride like hell, to win—and then collar your prize and hurry back here to the yacht."

"How about Abdul Harrash?" Roddy asked him. "Am I to ride his horse? The brute's a stumbler."

"No matter," said Kamarajes. "You'll win easy."

"What's the betting?"

"Ten to one against you. Want to place a bet?"

It looked too much like a "fixed" race. "No," said Roddy. "Won't Abdul Harrash expect some sort of payment from me for the use of his horse?"

Kamarajes grinned slyly. "Trust him, Mister. He'll get what he's after. Don't you worry. See you tomorrow. So long."

Soon after Kamarajes left MacNamara took an engine-room party ashore to repair the jetty, loading up two of the yacht's life-boats with lumber. He returned after awhile and winked at Roddy. Then Max got up and invited Roddy to tea on the bridge.

"What, not shaved yet? Aren't you going ashore?"


"Through with the girl, eh? Found her out, did you? Well, old fellow, better late than never. D'you know, Nolan, in the course of my experience I have seen more good men go wrong over a worthless woman than from all other causes put together. I'm relieved. I assure you I am. I can go through with that idiotic horse-race now without imagining you riding off afterwards into the desert with a jinx of a girl who would be your ruin. Have some tea. Cream? Sugar?"


SO a day, and a night, and a part of a day went by in torment. Max was intolerable. At one moment he complained of the heat and the risk to his health. Then he was afraid of the Arabs, who were keeping a vigilant watch from the fishing boats. When they showed no disposition to attack he became contemptuous and talked in platitudes about the white man's burden. He exploded with irritation when Roddy advised him not to send two drums of gasoline as a present to the Sultan, at any rate until after the race when the Sultan might need pacifying.

He strutted the bridge in a yachting cap and pyjamas fanning himself and scanning the horizon with binoculars, afraid some passing British Navy sloop might look in and investigate him. No sloop commander was likely to take his word for what was wrong. The Arabs, questioned, would complain of having been assaulted. That would mean a court of inquiry; and that would mean publicity, which he dreaded as tramps dread soap and water. He would be likely to catch it, too, from Washington; the United States Government isn't exactly affectionate toward millionaires who make trouble with yachts in foreign ports; the subsequent discourtesies somehow seem proportioned to the ingenuity with which the millionaire has avoided income tax. So Max was wrathy.

At the end of a day of stifling heat and glare, with everyone's nerves in a frazzle, Max went to the length of offering a month's extra pay to the engine-room staff if he could weigh anchor by midnight. Damn Roddy's horse; he had had enough of that brute, stinking up the yacht's deck. And to hell with Roddy; he shouldn't have been such a fool as to take the animal ashore. He lectured Roddy on the imbecility of owning horses in an age of mechanism.

"Sport of kings? It's the vice of the unemployable. Kings are an anachronism. So are horses. Racing is gambling. Why not get yourself a job?"

"I'm unemployable," said Roddy. At the moment he almost believed it. He felt he would be as well off in Arabia as anywhere. "Put me ashore," he said. "Clear out as soon as you can. Forget me." By dinner-time they were hardly on speaking terms.

But morning found Max in a better temper. MacNamara came to the bridge and reported that all would be well in the engine-room by night-fall. But he qualified that good news by remarking that the work on the jetty was not yet finished.

"Let those useless loafers do their own work," Max retorted.

"But it might be verra deeficult to get ten drums o' gasoline ashore wi'out the use o' yon crane," said MacNamara.

"Forget it. That offer of a month's pay stands if we're away by four this afternoon. They'd steal those drums if I set 'em ashore. It's a confidence trick."

"Ye're y'r own judge o* that," said MacNamara. "I'll not gainsay ye. Ye'll recall my advice to tak' a tow to Suez. Ye did gainsay that."

"I don't need you," said Max, "to tell me when to take a tow."

"So I obsairve," MacNamara answered. "But it's on my mind that yon Sultan has made ye a spor-r-tin' proposeetion, and he'd no' ha' done it but for the Greek having put in a wor-r-d in y'r favor. D'ye realize that the Greek stands to win a bet on the race this afternoon—a quid-sized bet.

"Yon Greek's a gambler. If ye call the race off, will ye no' mak' a malignant enemy? Will the Greek no' advise the Sultan to tak' belligerent exception to y'r breakin' y'r wor-r-d. What'll they do? Man, a deck-hand could tell ye. They'll send a camel-rider to Hodeidah; and from there they'll get in touch wi' Aden. And in Bombay ye'll find y'r yacht libelled for the verra seerious offense of a gratuitous assault on peaceful Arabs. It's your ain yacht. I'm no' advisin' ye. But if ye set that gasoline ashore, I'd say they'll then conseeder ye a spor-r-tsman, and they'll race ye for it, fairly, accordin' to Arab standards. Mr. Nolan can win the race. All ye'll need to do to keep the Sultan mollified will be to gie him two drums o' the stuff. If it were me, I'd send all twelve drums to the beach."

"Oh, very well, have it your own way. If they steal the stuff, I'll dock you for half of it. Put the drums overboard and float them to the beach this afternoon."

MACNAMARA shook his head. He looked fatherly cautious. "Man, ye're too free-handed wi' expensive fuel. Tak' precautions! I've or-rdcred the hor-r-se-box lifted off yon scow. We'll put the drums on the scow and tow that. We'll keep the scow ready f'r action alongside the jetty. We'll set a guard over the drums while they're on the jetty—not an ar-r-med guard, mind ye; that wad arouse susceptibeelities; but a bo'sun, say, and five or six men, merely to suggest we're no' an eleemosynary grab-bag."

Max insisted it would be safer to float the drums lashed all together. "As long as they're in the water, they're mine."

"Aye," MacNamara retorted, "but the Arab divers are verra effeccient. A diver could swim under water an' cut the lashings. Then the drums go adrift and if the Arabs choose to say they're flotsam—well—if ye crave a law-suit—in an Arab law-court—wi' an Arab lawyer—"

"Oh, all right," Max answered. He tried to look and to make himself believe he was not being tricked. But he even eyed Roddy as if he suspected him of being in league with the Greek and MacNamara. However, he did his utmost to appear good tempered. At two o'clock that afternoon he was almost jovial when MacNamara came and told him that the spare part was fitted in place, and he would be able to weigh by sunset.

Max even joked when the tender brought the scow, and the drums of gasoline went overside. When the tender returned for him and Roddy, he was even gracious to the mate and MacNamara, making no objection to their coming ashore with him to witness the race. He gave the mate a cigar.

Kamarajes had quiet mules waiting for them; but even on a quiet mule Max was nervous. His trouser-legs rucked up, and that made him self-conscious. He felt undignified. It appeared he expected to go to the palace. But Kamarajes led them past the Hell Tree, followed by a noisy swarm of small boys, who pestered Max for bucksheesh until his ears became as red as hackles. He was more than ever annoyed when the Sultan treated him with cool aloofness.

There had been an awning pitched beside the winning-post, and the Sultan sat beneath that on a palace sofa on a length of carpet.

He was surrounded by twenty or thirty notables, who took their cue from him and merely slightly inclined their heads in answer to Max's raised cap. Max, the mate and MacNamara joined the gathering beneath the awning and were provided with bent-wood chairs, whose legs sank in the sand; they had to sit at comfortless angles. What annoyed Max most was that the Sultan returned Roddy's greeting with something like cordiality. Roddy dismounted and the Sultan asked him whether the rules had been explained, and whether lie felt in good health and fit for a horse-race. But Roddy knew enough Arabic to detect the half-veiled note of sarcasm, and he saw that the notables exchanged glances with one another. There was no use discussing the rules. The race was "fixed," beyond any doubt whatever, and the only doubt was the up-shot. He was to ride a borrowed horse that stumbled from habit. He was probably intended to break his neck. Well, that was the least of his worries; he had risked his neck too often to feel very disturbed on that score. He felt like a gladiator in the arena, without a chance in the world.

He remounted and rode beside Kamarajes down the course, between the little scraps of flags, along the east side of the cemetery. He no longer trusted Kamarajes. There was no conversation. The cemetery was on rising ground; its low wall was lined with Arab spectators, but there was a swarm of them—almost half Zakkum by the look of it—where the course passed through a narrow gap between two hillocks. There, on both sides of the course, were men on camel-back, overlooking the crowd, but those looked like casual arrivals who had paused on their way to Zakkum; they had four or five riderless camels loaded with hides and bundles.

BEYOND that point the course was reasonably wide until it turned around the corner of the cemetery. There, exactly at the corner, out of sight from starting post and winning post, it passed again between hummocks of wind-heaped sand. There, there was another crowd, but smaller. The course appeared to be a scant mile, but it offered two good opportunities for foul play. Kamarajes broke the silence as the starter rode toward them—a stately, well mounted Arab, who wore two bandoliers.

"He's rich," said Kamarajes. "Count 'em! I could get a dollar apiece, in trade, for ten thousand of those cartridges, if I had 'em."

But Roddy's whole attention was on The Prophet and The Prophet's rider. He almost forgot to return the starter's greeting. Lillilee, dressed as a Bedouin, was having a hard time to control the savage stallion; he was wasting his strength and wind on frantic efforts to break away and get rid of his rider. He was sweating. There was foam on his neck. He lashed out with his heels at several other horses, whose Arab riders kept them milling near the starting post as if their object was to make The Prophet as mad as possible before the race began.

"Anyone rides in any race," said Kamarajes. "Suit yourself and take the consequences. But the rule is that nobody forfeits himself and his horse to the winner as long as he quits on this side of the home stretch—that's the last furlong, on the far side of the gut between those hillocks."

"What's the idea? Interfere with the horse that's not wanted to win?"

"Why not? All's fair in Arabia. Devil take the hindmost. There's your horse, Mister. He's slow, they say. Don't hurry him too much until The Prophet's wind begins to tell on him; after that, it's your race, easy. But remember to keep between the flags."

Roddy recognized four of Shaikh Abdul Harrash's men. Altogether, eight horses lined up for the start, with The Prophet plunging on the outside. There was scant room between the flags, and there would certainly not be room for more than half their number where the course grew narrow. Roddy tried to get next to The Prophet; he wanted to speak to Lillilee. But the farrash seized his rein and hauled his horse into the middle of the melee. There was almost no warning. The starter spurred out of the way and fired his rifle. They were off—two Arabs leading, then The Prophet, and then Roddy, followed closely in a cloud of dust by the four other Arabs. Outside the flags, off the course, in another hurricane of dust, rode twenty horsemen, racing for the corner to view the finish.

They kept that order, with The Prophet fighting for his head in the lead but obviously losing speed, almost as far as the first narrow gut between two sand-dunes. Then the Arabs behind Roddy cracked on speed. They crowded dose behind him, hard-breathing, their eyes blazing with excitement above face-cloths. Roddy's mount refused to extend himself; in a moment there was a horse on either flank, almost within biting range of Roddy's knees. They were all gaining fast on The Prophet, who was failing, when suddenly the two leading Arabs reined aside to right and left and the Sultan's trick revealed itself, too late to do anything but ride straight for it.

An Arab horse goes around, not over obstacles. There was a barrier in the gap—a heaped up barricade of hides and bundles that had been hidden behind the dune and rushed into place. The Prophet leaped it in his stride; even winded, such a jump as that meant almost nothing to him. Roddy felt his own horse flinch and try to turn aside; but there was a horse on either hand. There were two behind him, thundering at his rump. The Arab riders yelled and whacked at Roddy's horse. He saw himself down, in another second, beneath five horses. There seemed no other possibility. But his horse rose at the jump like a bird. He sailed over it sweetly. He pecked on the far side, but recovered and left behind him all four Arabs, planted, with their riders clinging to their necks.

THE race seemed his now. The Sultan had sprung his surprise. He was double-crossed; he probably hadn't guessed there was a horse in all Arabia that could be made to go over instead of around things. The Prophet was winded and easy to overtake now. Lillilee was riding him carefully, throwing her light weight forward on his withers, glancing backward as if she expected Roddy to come on and win. All six Arab riders followed full-pelt, galloping around the dunes and back to the course, hard after Roddy. But they rode like a charge of cavalry. Presumably this jumper wouldn't jump without a cavalcade behind him. Was there another jump, perhaps a worse one?

Suddenly he understood why Lillilee kept glancing backward. They rounded the turn in a cloud of dust almost too soon for the Sultan's second trick to function. Breast to breast, in the narrowest part of the second gap between two hillocks, two heavily loaded camels swayed and sagged to their knees. Lillilee rode straight at them, and The Prophet's ears flattened. He fought for the bit. A yelling crowd surged around the obstacle. It maddened him. He lashed out with his heels in mid-air. A camel raised its held and stopped the full smashing force of the hoof, rolled over on its side and lay struggling with its legs like the flails of the driver of doom. Roddy rode straight at him. There was no other way than the flick of a chance that those legs afforded. It was neck or nothing, with six horsemen close at his back. He leaped the camel—hit nothing—landed safely—heard a crash and glanced behind him at a scrimmage of horses and men that rolled and struggled amid camels' necks and legs and broken loads, while a couple of hundred spectators yelled with ribald laughter.

The rest was easy. The Prophet was all in. His ears were down. He could hardly canter. Max, the mate and MacNamara were waving their caps and shouting as if they had won a million. The Sultan's notables were clustered around him; there was consternation—a conference. It looked like trouble brewing and no time for the amenities. Roddy overtook and passed The Prophet. He glanced behind him at horsemen coming hell-bent through the crowd that swarmed along the course, and then shouted:

"To your tents, O Israel! To the yacht! To the yacht! Hurry up!"

There was no knowing who was friend or enemy. He turned to grab The Prophet's rein, but Lillilee forestalled that. He only got a glimpse of her face above the folds of a Bedouin face-cloth. She rode toward the city at a slow trot because The Prophet was incapable of better at the moment; but Roddy could not get nearer. The pursuing Arabs' horses were not badly winded. In a moment they were all around The Prophet. Lillilee rode in the midst of an escort that included the starter, with his rifle and two bandoliers, and it looked at least as tough and competent as Sultan Ayyub's group. Max, the mate and MacNamara mounted their waiting mules and followed Roddy, but they were no horsemen, they lagged in the rear of a procession that rode through Zakkum like the advance guard of a conquering army. There was no sign of Kamarajes until they came within sight of the jetty. There was his mule. There he was—shouting and gesticulating to a group of Ayyub's people, telling them the result of a race that he had not witnessed. He looked worried. He kept glancing northward. There was a sudden rush by Ayyub's people for the drums of gasoline.

The bo'sun and five men backed away; they had no weapons.

Suddenly, from the northward, through a gap in the wall near where it touched the beach, came a hundred horsemen, led by Shaikh Abdul Harrash. There were unloaded camels behind them. They swooped on the jetty. They were loud-lunged—arrogant. They brow-beat Ayyub's people. In the fading light there began an argument that beggared bedlam, with Max in the midst of it shouting at Kamarajes. He had to shout at the top of his lungs:

"Tell him it's mine, all except two drums. They're a present for the Sultan!"

"He says," yelled Kamarajes, "that now it's all his, for the use of the horse! That's true, it's his horse. It's a trick horse—very valuable!"

"Damn him, I'll have the law on him!" Nobody but Max could have thought of the law in that predicament. Kamarajes almost struck him.

RODDY looked—saw—grabbed Max by the shoulder. Down the main street of Zakkum Sultan Ayyub's armed men were coming. On the jetty, someone had opened a steel drum. There was a crowd around it. Eager, sinewy, sweating arms reached out and fought for cartridges that someone on his knees was emptying from the drum, as fast as frenzy could do it. Other men rolled the remaining drums toward the kneeling camels. Max exploded:

"Cartridges, eh? Contraband, eh? That's why he wouldn't try to float them, is it? MacNamara—where's MacNamara?"

"To the boats!" said MacNamara in his car. He was straight-faced. He was stuffing something in his pocket. Kamarajes was beside him. Kamarajes shoved Max, almost hustled him toward the jetty. Then he seized Roddy's hand and shook it:

"Good-by, Mister, and be good to her. She's worth it. There'll be a new Sultan here when the fighting's over, so I'll sit pretty. Come and see me some day. Good luck."

There were no shots yet. The Sultan's men, jammed in the neck of the street were considering risks and meanwhile yelling insult and retort. Roddy hurried Max along the jetty, where the mate stood in charge of the crane. The Prophet was already in the horse-box, kicking. Max jumped for the scow; he was nearly knocked into the sea by the big box as it swung clear and slowly descended. He jumped into the tender, shouting, "Let go! Full speed ahead!" He could hardly wait for his men to get down off the jetty. Roddy noticed a pair of Arabian saddle-, well filled, beside his own saddle and the bag of oats near the horse-box on the scow, but he made no comment. He peered into the horse-box, but whatever he saw inside it, he said nothing. He went back and stood beside MacNamara, staring at Zakkum, where there was already sporadic rifle-firing.

"Oor bag o' deevidends," said MacNamara, "unless ye war-r-n him, might come across wi' remar-r-ks subver-r-sive o' good taste an' decent deescipline. I hae a premoneetion of it. So ye maun remind him that he or-r-dered and paid for yonder drums o' gasoline, by cable, from a firm o' Greeks in Alexandria, to save a wee bit ten per cent of honest graft a reputable agent might ha' char-r-ged him. He hasn't a scrap o' presumptive or cir-r-cumstantial evidence that I had thought or finger in it. And I'm touchy aboot my reputation. I could gie no evidence in a court o' law that wad remove responsibeelity from him for what was in those drums. But man, man, a dollar a piece for car-r-tridges—just think of it! Tell him the crew won't talk, if he's liberal. A leetle liberality is better than indeegnation. They'll say nothing, not if he knows the proper uses o' his purr-rse. Man, man, running ammuneetion into por-r-ts where it's forbidden is a verra reesky passion, but I'll grant ye it pays when it comes off. Losh, yonder Arabs are cr-r-ackin away like a dollar a gross. They're bur-r-n-ing money."

Max went straight to the bridge, and the mate to the fo'castle-head. They weighed at sunset, and for two hours, because of the deadly reefs. Max exercised his one unfailing genius. He could handle his yacht from the bridge as some men drive a car, without much knowledge of its mechanism but with a curious flair for avoiding accidents. He was good in a difficult course on a dark night. Dinner was late. It was long after cocktail time when he came down from the bridge in search of Roddy and found him in the shadow of the horse-box.

"Look here, Nolan, I'd like a little private talk with you before we have our appetizer."

"Talk ahead," said Roddy.

"I've been thinking. Anyone who knows me, knows I wouldn't be guilty of running ammunition. But it might be very difficult to prove my innocence. Can I count on you to hold your tongue about it?"

"Sure," said Roddy.

"I suppose I shall have to pay the crew to keep 'em quiet."


"How about you?"

"I never took a bribe in my life."

It was too dark to see the stare of incredulity behind Max's pince-nez. He hesitated, coughed, and then lighted a cigarette. "Perhaps, Nolan, you can think of something I could do for you that you wouldn't consider a bribe."

"For instance?"

"Think it over. What I want is silence about that ammunition. Let me do you a favor. I know one I wish I could do, but it's too late. I'm afraid I'm sentimental.

Up on the bridge there, under the stars, I've been wondering whether I gave you the proper advice about that girl. She may not have been a bad girl after all. Who rode The Prophet?"

"She did."

"I guessed it. I didn't recognize her, but I guessed it. D'you know—as I said, I'm sentimental—I've been wondering what might have happened if you'd brought her away with you. With the aid of that horse-boy's landing permit we might have got her past the authorities in Bombay. She might pass for a boy, with a bit of good luck and some rehearsing. She's an adventuress, of course. But then, you're an adventurer. D'you know, I'm actually sorry you didn't bring her. There's no knowing what a girl like that might not be good for. You and she in India might—"

Roddy knew what he could do in India, far better than Max was capable of guessing. He interrupted:

"Hell, you'd have put her ashore at Aden."

"Not I, I assure you, Nolan. You know—generosity is a strange emotion. There's no accounting for it. I feel I was ungenerous to that girl. I wish I hadn't been. I wish I'd helped her."

"Do you mean that?"

"Yes. I feel almost guilty, leaving her behind. I wish you'd brought her."

Roddy reached into the darkness. "It was winner-take-all," he answered. He drew someone toward him—a shadow that moved like a leopard and stayed in his arm.

Max switched on the electric deck-light. "God!" he exploded. "What can you do with her? What do you think you can do with him, young woman?"

Lillilee laughed. "Allahu A'alam," she answered. "God knows. But the world is big, and there are many things to do. Is there a law that we may not do them?"


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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