Read A YOUNG LION OF DEDAN of Donovan Pasha And Some People Of Egypt, free online book, by Gilbert Parker, on ReadCentral.com.

Looking from the minaret the Two could see, far off, the Pyramids of Ghizeh and Sakkara, the wells of Helouan, the Mokattam Hills, the tombs of the Caliphs, the Khedive’s palace at distant Abbasiyeh.  Nearer by, the life of the city was spread out.  Little green oases of palms emerged from the noisy desert of white stone and plaster.  The roofs of the houses, turned into gardens and promenades, made of the huge superficial city one broken irregular pavement.  Minarets of mosques stood up like giant lamp-posts along these vast, meandering streets.  Shiftless housewives lolled with unkempt hair on the housetops; women of the harem looked out of the little mushrabieh panels in the clattering, narrow bazaars.

Just at their feet was a mosque ­one of the thousand nameless mosques of Cairo.  It was the season of Ramadan, and a Friday, the Sunday of the Mahommedan ­the Ghimah.

The “Two” were Donovan Pasha, then English Secretary to the Khedive, generally known as “Little Dicky Donovan,” and Captain Renshaw, of the American Consulate.  There was no man in Egypt of so much importance as Donovan Pasha.  It was an importance which could neither be bought nor sold.

Presently Dicky touched the arm of his companion.  “There it comes!” he said.

His friend followed the nod of Dicky’s head, and saw, passing slowly through a street below, a funeral procession.  Near a hundred blind men preceded the bier, chanting the death-phrases.  The bier was covered by a faded Persian shawl, and it was carried by the poorest of the fellaheen, though in the crowd following were many richly attired merchants of the bazaars.  On a cart laden with bread and rice two fellaheen stood and handed, or tossed out, food to the crowd ­token of a death in high places.  Vast numbers of people rambled behind chanting, and a few women, near the bier, tore their garments, put dust on their heads, and kept crying:  “Salem ala ahali! ­Remember us to our friends!”

Walking immediately behind the bier was one conspicuous figure, and there was a space around him which none invaded.  He was dressed in white, like an Arabian Mahommedan, and he wore the green turban of one who has been the pilgrimage to Mecca.

At sight of him Dicky straightened himself with a little jerk, and his tongue clicked with satisfaction.  “Isn’t he, though ­isn’t he?” he said, after a moment.  His lips, pressed together, curled in with a trick they had when he was thinking hard, planning things.

The other forbore to question.  The notable figure had instantly arrested his attention, and held it until it passed from view.

“Isn’t he, though, Yankee?” Dicky repeated, and pressed a knuckle into the other’s waistcoat.

“Isn’t he what?”

“Isn’t he bully ­in your own language?”

“In figure; but I couldn’t see his face distinctly.”

“You’ll see that presently.  You could cut a whole Egyptian Ministry out of that face, and have enough left for an American president or the head of the Salvation Army.  In all the years I’ve spent here I’ve never seen one that could compare with him in nature, character, and force.  A few like him in Egypt, and there’d be no need for the money-barbers of Europe.”

“He seems an ooster here ­you know him?”

“Do I!” Dicky paused and squinted up at the tall Southerner.  “What do you suppose I brought you out from your Consulate for to see ­the view from Ebn Mahmoud?  And you call yourself a cute Yankee?”

“I’m no more a Yankee than you are, as I’ve told you before,” answered the American with a touch of impatience, yet smilingly.  “I’m from South Carolina, the first State that seceded.”

“Anyhow, I’m going to call you Yankee, to keep you nicely disguised.  This is the land of disguises.”

“Then we did not come out to see the view?” the other drawled.  There was a quickening of the eye, a drooping of the lid, which betrayed a sudden interest, a sense of adventure.

Dicky laid his head back and laughed noiselessly.  “My dear Renshaw, with all Europe worrying Ismail, with France in the butler’s pantry and England at the front door, do the bowab and the sarraf go out to take air on the housetops, and watch the sun set on the Pyramids and make a rainbow of the desert?  I am the bowab and the sarraf, the man-of-all-work, the Jack-of-all-trades, the ‘confidential’ to the Oriental spendthrift.  Am I a dog to bay the moon ­have I the soul of a tourist from Liverpool or Poughkeepsie?”

The lanky Southerner gripped his arm.  “There’s a hunting song of the South,” he said, “and the last line is, ‘The hound that never tires.’  You are that, Donovan Pasha ­”

“I am ‘little Dicky Donovan,’ so they say,” interrupted the other.

“You are the weight that steadies things in this shaky Egypt.  You are you, and you’ve brought me out here because there’s work of some kind to do, and because ­”

“And because you’re an American, and we speak the same language.”

“And our Consulate is all right, if needed, whatever it is.  You’ve played a square game in Egypt.  You’re the only man in office who hasn’t got rich out of her, and ­”

“I’m not in office.”

“You’re the power behind the throne, you’re ­”

“I’m helpless ­worse than helpless, Yankee.  I’ve spent years of my life here.  I’ve tried to be of some use, and play a good game for England; and keep a conscience too, but it’s been no real good.  I’ve only staved off the crash.  I’m helpless, now.  That’s why I’m here.”

He leaned forward, and looked out of the minaret and down towards the great locked gates of the empty mosque.

Renshaw put his hand on Dicky’s shoulder.  “It’s the man in white yonder you’re after?”

Dicky nodded.  “It was no use as long as she lived.  But she’s dead ­her face was under that old Persian shawl ­and I’m going to try it on.”

“Try what on?”

“Last night I heard she was sick.  I heard at noon to-day that she was gone; and then I got you to come out and see the view!”

“What are you going to do with him?”

“Make him come back.”

“From where?”

“From the native quarter and the bazaars.  He was for years in Abdin Palace.”

“What do you want him for?”

“It’s a little gamble for Egypt.  There’s no man in Egypt Ismail loves and fears so much ­”

“Except little Dicky Donovan!”

“That’s all twaddle.  There’s no man Ismail fears so much, because he’s the idol of the cafes and the bazaars.  He’s the Egyptian in Egypt to-day.  You talk about me?  Why, I’m the foreigner, the Turk, the robber, the man that holds the lash over Egypt.  I’d go like a wisp of straw if there was an uprising.”

“Will there be an uprising?” The Southerner’s fingers moved as though they were feeling a pistol.

“As sure as that pyramid stands.  Everything depends on the kind of uprising.  I want one kind.  There may be another.”

“That’s what you are here for?”

“Exactly.”

“Who is he?”

“Wait.”

“What is his story?”

“She was.”  He nodded towards the funeral procession.

“Who was she?”

“She was a slave.”  Then, after a pause, “She was a genius too.  She saw what was in him.  She was waiting ­but death couldn’t wait, so...  Every thing depends.  What she asked him to do, he’ll do.”

“But if she didn’t ask?”

“That’s it.  She was sick only seventeen hours ­sick unto death.  If she didn’t ask, he may come my way.”

Again Dicky leaned out of the minaret, and looked down towards the gates of the mosque, where the old gatekeeper lounged half-asleep.  The noise of the-procession had died away almost, had then revived, and from beyond the gates of the mosque could be heard the cry of the mourners:  “Salem ala ahali!”

There came a knocking, and the old porter rose up, shuffled to the great gates, and opened.  For a moment he barred the way, but when the bearers pointed to the figure in white he stepped aside and salaamed low.

“He is stone-deaf, and hasn’t heard, or he’d have let her in fast enough,” said Dicky.

“It’s a new thing for a woman to be of importance in an Oriental country,” said Renshaw.

“Ah, that’s it!  That’s where her power was.  She, with him, could do anything.  He, with her, could have done anything....  Stand back there, where you can’t be seen ­quick,” added Dicky hurriedly.  They both drew into a corner.

“I’m afraid it was too late.  He saw me,” added Dicky.

“I’m afraid he did,” said Renshaw.

“Never mind.  It’s all in the day’s work.  He and I are all right.  The only danger would lie in the crowd discovering us in this holy spot, where the Muezzin calls to prayer, and giving us what for, before he could interfere.”

“I’m going down from this ‘holy spot,’” said Renshaw, and suited the action to the word.

“Me too, Yankee,” said Dicky, and they came halfway down the tower.  From this point they watched the burial, still well above the heads of the vast crowd, through which the sweetmeat and sherbet sellers ran, calling their wares and jangling their brass cups.

“What is his name?” said Renshaw.

“Abdalla.”

“Hers?”

“Noor-ala-Noor.”

“What does that mean?”

“Light from the Light.”

II-

The burial was over.  Hundreds had touched the coffin, taking a last farewell.  The blind men had made a circle round the grave, hiding the last act of ritual from the multitude.  The needful leaves, the graceful pebbles, had been deposited, the myrtle blooms and flowers had been thrown, and rice, dates, bread, meat, and silver pieces were scattered among the people.  Some poor men came near to the chief mourner.

“Behold, effendi, may our souls be thy sacrifice, and may God give coolness to thine eyes, speak to us by the will of God!”

For a moment the white-robed figure stood looking at them in silence; then he raised his hand and motioned towards the high pulpit, which was almost underneath the place where Dicky and Renshaw stood.  Going over, he mounted the steps, and the people followed and crowded upon the pulpit.

“A nice jack-pot that,” said Renshaw, as he scanned the upturned faces through the opening in the wall.  “A pretty one-eyed lot.”

“Shows how they love their country.  Their eyes were put out by their mothers when they were babes, to avoid conscription....  Listen, Yankee:  Egypt is talking.  Now, we’ll see!”

Dicky’s lips were pressed tight together, and he stroked his faint moustache with a thumb-nail meditatively.  His eyes were not on the speaker, but on the distant sky, the Mokattam Hills and the forts Napoleon had built there.  He was listening intently to Abdalla’s high, clear voice, which rang through the courts of the ruined mosque.

“In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful, children of Egypt, listen.  Me ye have known years without number, and ye know that I am of you, as ye are of me.  Our feet are in the same shoes, we gather from the same date-palm, of the same goolah we drink.  My father’s father ­now in the bosom of God, praise be to God! ­builded this mosque; and my father, whose soul abides in peace with God, he cherished it till evil days came upon this land.  ’Be your gifts to this mosque neither of silver nor copper, but of tears and prayers,’ said my father, Ebn Abdalla, ere he unrolled his green turban and wound himself in it for his winding-sheet.  ’Though it be till the Karadh-gatherers return, yet shall ye replace nor stone nor piece of wood, save in the gates thereof, till good days come once more, and the infidel and the Turk be driven from the land.’  Thus spake my father....”

There came a stir and a murmuring among the crowd, and cries of “Allahu Akbar!” “Peace, peace!” urged the figure in white.  “Nay, make no noise.  This is the house of the dead, of one who hath seen God....  ’Nothing shall be repaired, save the gates of the mosque of Ebn Mahmoud, the mosque of my father’s father,’ so said my father.  Also said he, ’And one shall stand at the gates and watch, though the walls crumble away, till the day when the land shall again be our land, and the chains of the stranger be forged in every doorway.’...  But no, ye shall not lift up your voices in anger.  This is the abode of peace, and the mosque is my mosque, and the dead my dead.”

“The dead is our dead, effendi ­may God give thee everlasting years!” called a blind man from the crowd.  Up in the tower Dicky had listened intently, and as the speech proceeded his features contracted; once he gripped the arm of Renshaw.

“It’s coming on to blow,” he said, in the pause made by the blind man’s interruption.  “There’ll be shipwreck somewhere.”

“Ye know the way by which I came,” continued Abdalla loudly.  “Nothing is hid from you.  I came near to the person of the Prince, whom God make wise while yet the stars of his life give light!  In the palace of Abdin none was preferred before me.  I was much in the sun, and mine eyes were dazzled.  Yet in season I spake the truth, and for you I laboured.  But not as one hath a life to give and seeks to give it.  For the dazzle that was in mine eyes hid from me the fulness of your trials.  But an end there was to these things.  She came to the palace a slave-Noor-ala-Noor....  Nay, nay, be silent still, my brothers.  Her soul was the soul of one born free.  On her lips was wisdom.  In her heart was truth like a flaming sword.  To the Prince she spoke not as a slave to a slave, but in high level terms.  He would have married her, but her life lay in the hollow of her hand, and the hand was a hand to open and shut according as the soul willed.  She was ready to close it so that none save Allah might open it again.  Then in anger the Prince would have given her to his bowab at the gates, or to the Nile, after the manner of a Turk or a Persian tyrant ­may God purge him of his loathsomeness...!”

He paused, as though choking with passion and grief, and waved a hand over the crowd in agitated command.

“Here’s the old sore open at last ­which way now?” said Dicky in a whisper.  “It’s the toss of a penny where he’ll pull up.  As I thought ...  ’Sh!” he added as Renshaw was about to speak.

Abdalla continued.  “Then did I stretch forth my hand, and, because I loved her, a slave with the freedom of God in her soul and on her face, I said, ‘Come with me,’ and behold! she came, without a word, for our souls spake to each other, as it was in the olden world, ere the hearts of men were darkened.  I, an Egyptian of a despised and down-trodden land, where all men save the rich are slaves, and the rich go in the fear of their lives; she, a woman from afar, of that ancient tribe who conquered Egypt long ago ­we went forth from the palace alone and penniless.  He, the Prince, dared not follow to do me harm, for my father’s father ye knew, and my father ye knew, and me ye knew since I came into the world, and in all that we had ye shared while yet we had to give; yea, and he feared ye.  We lived among ye, poor as ye are poor, yet rich for that Egypt was no poorer because of us.”  He waved his hand as though to still the storm he was raising....  “If ye call aloud, I will drive ye from this place of peace, this garden of her who was called Light from the Light.  It hath been so until yesterday, when God stooped and drew the veil from her face, and she dropped the garment of life and fled from the world....  Go, go hence,” he added, his voice thick with sorrow.  “But ere ye go, answer me, as ye have souls that desire God and the joys of Paradise, will ye follow where I go, when I come to call ye forth?  Will ye obey, if I command?”

“By the will of God, thou hast purchased our hearts we will do thy will for ever,” was the answer of the throng.

“Go then, bring down the infidels that have stood in the minaret above, where the Muezzin calls to prayer;” sharply called Abdalla, and waved an arm towards the tower where Dicky and Renshaw were.

An oath broke from the lips of the Southerner; but Dicky smiled.  “He’s done it in style,” he said.  “Come along.”  He bounded down the steps to the doorway before the crowd had blocked the way.  “They might toss us out of that minaret,” he added, as they both pushed their way into the open.

“You take too many risks, effendi,” he called up to Abdalla in French, as excited Arabs laid hands upon them, and were shaken off.  “Call away these fools!” he added coolly to the motionless figure watching from the pulpit stairs.

Cries of “Kill-kill the infidels!” resounded on all sides; but Dicky called up again to Abdalla.  “Stop this nonsense, effendi.”  Then, without awaiting an answer, he shouted to the crowd:  “I am Donovan Pasha.  Touch me, and you touch Ismail.  I haven’t come to spy, but to sorrow with you for Noor-ala-Noor, whose soul is with God, praise be to God, and may God give her spirit to you!  I have come to weep for him in whom greatness speaks; I have come for love of Abdalla the Egyptian....  Is it a sin to stand apart in silence and to weep unseen?  Was it a sin against the Moslem faith that in this minaret I prayed God to comfort Abdalla, grandson of Ebn Mahmoud, Egyptian of the Egyptians?  Was it not I who held Ismail’s hand, when he ­being in an anger ­would have scoured the bazaars with his horsemen for Abdalla and Noor-ala-Noor?  This is known to Abdalla, whom God preserve and exalt.  Is not Abdalla friend to Donovan Pasha?”

Dicky was known to hundreds present.  There was not a merchant from the bazaars but had had reason to appreciate his presence, either by friendly gossip over a cup of coffee, or by biting remarks in Arabic, when they lied to him, or by the sweep of his stick over the mastaba and through the chattels of some vile-mouthed pedlar who insulted English ladies whom he was escorting through the bazaar.  They knew his face, his tongue, and the weight and style of his arm; and though they would cheerfully have seen him the sacrifice of the Jehad to the cry of Alldhu Akbar! they respected him for himself, and they feared him because he was near to the person of Ismail.

He was the more impressive because in the midst of wealth and splendour he remained poor:  he had more than once bought turquoises and opals and horses and saddlery, which he paid for in instalments, like any little merchant.  Those, therefore, who knew him, were well inclined to leave him alone, and those who did not know him were impressed by his speech.  If it was true that he was friend to Abdalla, then his fate was in the hand of God, not theirs.  They all had heard of little Donovan Pasha, whom Ismail counted only less than Gordon Pasha, the mad Englishman, who emptied his pocket for an old servant, gave his coat to a beggar, and rode in the desert so fast that no Arab could overtake him.

“Call off your terriers, effendi,” said Dicky again in French; for Renshaw was restive under the hands that were laid on his arm, and the naboots that threatened him.  “My friend here is American.  He stands for the United States in Egypt.”

Abdalla had not moved a muscle during the disturbance, or during Dicky’s speech.  He seemed but the impassive spectator, though his silence and the look in his eyes were ominous.  It would appear as though he waited to see whether the Englishman and his friend could free themselves from danger.  If they could, then it was God’s will; if they could not, Malaish!  Dicky understood.  In this he read Abdalla like a parchment, and though he had occasion to be resentful, he kept his nerves and his tongue in an equable mood.  He knew that Abdalla would speak now.  The Egyptian raised his hand.

“In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful, go your ways,” he said loudly.  “It is as Donovan Pasha says, he stayed the hand of Ismail for my sake.  Noor-ala-Noor, the Light from the Light, saw into his heart, and it was the honest heart of a fool.  And these are the words of the Koran, That the fool is one whom God has made His temple for a season, thereafter withdrawing.  None shall injure the temple.  Were not your hearts bitter against him, and when he spoke did ye not soften?  He hath no inheritance of Paradise, but God shall blot him out in His own time.  Bismillah!  God cool his resting-place in that day.  Donovan Pasha’s hand is for Egypt, not against her.  We are brothers, though the friendship of man is like the shade of the acacia.  Yet while the friendship lives, it lives.  When God wills it to die, it dies....”  He waved his hand towards the gateway, and came slowly down the steep steps.

With a curious look in his eyes, Dicky watched the people go.  Another curious look displaced it and stayed, as Abdalla silently touched his forehead, his lips, and his heart three times, and then reached out a hand to Dicky and touched his palm.  Three times they touched palms, and then Abdalla saluted Renshaw in the same fashion, making the gestures once only.

From the citadel came the boom of the evening gun.  Without a word Abdalla left them, and, going apart, he turned his face towards Mecca and began his prayers.  The court-yard of the mosque was now empty, save for themselves alone.

The two walked apart near the deserted fountain in the middle of the court-yard.  “The friendship of man is like the shade of the acacia.  Yet while the friendship lives, it lives.  When God wills it to die, it dies!” mused Dicky with a significant smile.  “Friendship walks on thin ice in the East, Yankee.”

“See here, Donovan Pasha, I don’t like taking this kind of risk without a gun,” said Renshaw.

“You’re an official, a diplomat; you mustn’t carry a gun.”

“It’s all very fine, but it was a close shave for both of us.  You’ve got an object ­want to get something out of it.  But what do I get for my money?”

“Perhaps the peace of Europe.  Perhaps a page of reminiscences for the ‘New York World’.  Perhaps some limelight chapters of Egyptian history.  Perhaps a little hari-kari.  Don’t you feel it in the air?” Dicky drew in a sibilant breath.  “All this in any other country would make you think you were having a devil of a time.  It’s on the regular ‘menoo’ here, and you don’t get a thrill.”

“The peace of Europe ­Abdalla has something to do with that?”

“Multiply the crowd here a thousand times as much, and that’s what he could represent in one day.  Give him a month, and every man in Egypt would be collecting his own taxes where he could find ’em.  Abdalla there could be prophet and patriot to-morrow, and so he will be soon, and to evil ends, if things don’t take a turn.  That Egyptian-Arab has a tongue, he has brains, he has sorrow, he loved Noor-ala-Noor.  Give a man the egotism of grief, and eloquence, and popularity, and he’ll cut as sharp as the khamsin wind.  The dust he’ll raise will blind more eyes than you can see in a day’s march, Yankee.  You may take my word for it.”

Renshaw looked at Dicky thoughtfully.  “You’re wasting your life here.  You’ll get nothing out of it.  You’re a great man, Donovan Pasha, but others’ll reap where you sowed.”

Dicky laughed softly.  “I’ve had more fun for my money than most men of my height and hair ­” he stroked his beardless chin humorously.  “And the best is to come, Yankee.  This show is cracking.  The audience are going to rush it.”

Renshaw laid a hand on his shoulder.  “Pasha, to tell you God’s truth, I wouldn’t have missed this for anything; but what I can’t make out is, why you brought me here.  You don’t do things like that for nothing.  You bet you don’t.  You’d not put another man in danger, unless he was going to get something out of it, or somebody was.  It looks so damned useless.  You’ve done your little job by your lonesome, anyhow.  I was no use.”

“Your turn comes,” said Dicky, flashing a look of friendly humour at him.  “America is putting her hand in the dough ­through you.  You’ll know, and your country’ll know, what’s going on here in the hum of the dim bazaars.  Ismail’s got to see how things stand, and you’ve got to help me tell him.  You’ve got to say I tell the truth, when the French gentlemen, who have their several spokes in the Egyptian wheel, politely say I lie.  Is it too much, or too little, Yankee?”

Renshaw almost gulped.  “By Jerusalem!” was all he could say.  “And we wonder why the English swing things as they do!” he growled, when his breath came freely.

Abdalla had finished his prayers; he was coming towards them.  Dicky went to meet him.

“Abdalla, I’m hungry,” he said; “so are you.  You’ve eaten nothing since sunset, two days ago.”

“I am thirsty, saadat el basha,” he answered, and his voice was husky.

“Come, I will give you to eat, by the goodness of God.”

It was the time of Ramadan, when no Mahommedan eats food or touches liquid from the rising to the going down of the sun.  As the sunset-gun boomed from the citadel, lids had been snatched off millions of cooking-pots throughout the land, and fingers had been thrust into the meat and rice of the evening feast, and their owner had gulped down a bowl of water.  The smell of a thousand cooking-pots now came to them over the walls of the mosque.  Because of it, Abdalla’s command to the crowd to leave had been easier of acceptance.  Their hunger had made them dangerous.  Danger was in the air.  The tax-gatherers had lately gone their rounds, and the agents of the Mouffetish had wielded the kourbash without mercy and to some purpose.  It was perhaps lucky that the incident had occurred within smell of the evening feasts and near the sounding of the sunset-gun.

III-

A half-hour later, as Abdalla thrust his fingers into the dish and handed Dicky a succulent cucumber filled with fried meat, the latter said to him:  “It is the wish of the Effendina, my friend.  It comes as the will of God; for even as Noor-ala-Noor journeyed to the bosom of God by your will, and by your prayers, being descended from Mahomet as you are, even then Ismail, who knew naught of your sorrow, said to me, ’In all Egypt there is one man, and one only, for whom my soul calls to go into the desert with Gordon,’ and I answered him and said:  ’Inshallah, Effendina, it is Abdalla, the Egyptian.’  And he laid his hand upon his head ­I have seen him do that for no man since I came into his presence ­and said:  ’My soul calls for him.  Find him and bid him to come.  Here is my ring.’”

Dicky took from his pocket a signet-ring, which bore a passage from the Koran, and laid it beside Abdalla’s drinking-bowl.

“What is Ismail to me ­or the far tribes of the Soudan!  Here are my people,” was the reply.  Abdalla motioned to the next room, where the blind men ate their evening meal, and out to the dimly lighted streets where thousands of narghilehs and cigarettes made little smoky clouds that floated around white turbans and dark faces.  “When they need me, I will speak; when they cry to me, I will unsheathe the sword of Ebn Mahmoud, who fought with Mahomet Ali and saved the land from the Turk.”

Renshaw watched the game with an eagerness unnoticeable in his manner.  He saw how difficult was the task before Dicky.  He saw an Oriental conscious of his power, whose heart was bitter, and whose soul, in its solitude, revolted and longed for action.  It was not moved by a pure patriotism, but what it was moved by served.  That dangerous temper, which would have let Dicky, whom he called friend, and himself go down under the naboots of the funeral multitude, with a “Malaish” on his tongue, was now in leash, ready to spring forth in the inspired hour; and the justification need not be a great one.  Some slight incident might set him at the head of a rabble which would sweep Cairo like a storm.  Yet Renshaw saw, too, that once immersed in the work his mind determined on, the Egyptian would go forward with relentless force.  In the excitement of the moment it seemed to him that Egypt was hanging in the balance.

Dicky was eating sweetmeats like a girl.  He selected them with great care.  Suddenly Abdalla touched his hand.  “Speak on.  Let all thy thoughts be open ­stay not to choose, as thou dost with the sweetmeats.  I will choose:  do thou offer without fear.  I would not listen to Ismail; to thee I am but as a waled to bear thy shoes in my hand.”

Dicky said nothing for a moment, but appeared to enjoy the comfit he was eating.  He rolled it over his tongue, and his eyes dwelt with a remarkable simplicity and childlike friendliness on Abdalla.  It was as though there was really nothing vital at stake....  Yet he was probing, probing without avail into Abdalla’s mind and heart, and was never more at sea in his life.  It was not even for Donovan Pasha to read the Oriental thoroughly.  This man before him had the duplicity or evasion of the Oriental; delicately in proportion to his great ability, yet it was there ­though in less degree than in any Arab he had ever known.  It was the more dangerous because so subtle.  It held surprise ­it was an unknown quantity.  The most that Dicky could do was to feel subtly before him a certain cloud of the unexpected.  He was not sure that he deceived Abdalla by his simple manner, yet that made little difference.  The Oriental would think not less of him for dissimulation, but rather more.  He reached over and put a comfit in the hand of Abdalla.

“Let us eat together,” he said, and dropped a comfit into his own mouth.

Abdalla ate, and Dicky dipped his fingers in the basin before them, saying, as he lifted them again:  “I will speak as to my brother.  Ismail has staked all on the Soudan.  If, in the will of God, he is driven from Berber, from Dongola, from Khartoum, from Darfar, from Kassala, his power is gone.  Egypt goes down like the sun at evening.  Ismail will be like a withered gourd.  To establish order and peace and revenue there, he is sending the man his soul loves, whom the nations trust, to the cities of the desert.  If it be well with Gordon, it will be well with the desert-cities.  But Gordon asks for one man ­an Egyptian ­who loves the land and is of the people, to speak for him, to counsel with him, to show the desert tribes that Egypt gives her noblest to rule and serve them.  There is but one man ­Abdalla the Egyptian.  A few years yonder in the desert ­power, glory, wealth won for Egypt, the strength of thine arms known, the piety of thy spirit proven, thy name upon every tongue ­on thy return, who then should fear for Egypt!”

Dicky was playing a dangerous game, and Renshaw almost shrank from his words.  He was firing the Egyptian’s mind, but to what course he knew not.  If to the Soudan, well; if to remain, what conflagration might not occur!  Dicky staked all.

“Here, once more, among thy people, returned from conquest and the years of pilgrimage in the desert, like a prophet of old, thy zeal would lead the people, and once more Egypt should bloom like the rose.  Thou wouldst be sirdar, mouffetish, pasha, all things soever.  This thou wouldst be and do, thou, Abdalla the Egyptian.”

Dicky had made his great throw; and he sat back, perhaps a little paler than was his wont, but apparently serene and earnest and steady.

The effect upon Abdalla could only be judged by his eyes, which burned like fire as they fixed upon Dicky’s face.  The suspense was painful, for he did not speak for a long time.  Renshaw could have shrieked with excitement.  Dicky lighted a cigarette and tossed a comfit at a pariah dog.  At last Abdalla rose.  Dicky rose with him.

“Thou, too, hast a great soul, or mine eyes are liars,” Abdalla said.  “Thou lovest Egypt also.  This Gordon ­I am not his friend.  I will not go with him.  But if thou goest also with Gordon, then I will go with thee.  If thou dost mean well by Egypt, and thy words are true, thou also wilt go.  As thou speakest, let it be.”

A mist came before Dicky’s eyes ­the world seemed falling into space, his soul was in a crucible.  The struggle was like that of a man with death, for this must change the course of his life, to what end God only knew.  All that he had been to Egypt, all that Egypt had been to him, came to him.  But he knew that he must not pause.  Now was his moment, and now only.  Before the mist had cleared from his eyes he gave his hand into Abdalla’s.

“In God’s name, so be it.  I also will go with Gordon, and thou with me,” he said.