DONOVAN PASHA AND SOME PEOPLE OF EGYPT - VOLUME 2.
DONOVAN PASHA AND SOME PEOPLE OF EGYPT - VOLUME 2.
FIELDING HAD AN ORDERLY
THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE
A TREATY OF PEACE
AT THE MERCY OF TIBERIUS
ALL THE WORLD'S MAD
FIELDING HAD AN ORDERLY
His legs were like pipe-stems his body was like a board but he was
straight enough not unsoldierly nor so bad to look at when his back was
on you; but when he showed his face you had little pleasure in him. It
seemed made of brown putty the nose was like india-rubber and the eyes
had that dull sullen look of a mongrel got of a fox-terrier and a bull-
dog. Like this sort of mongrel also his eyes turned a brownish-red when
he was excited.
You could always tell when something had gone wrong with Ibrahim the
Orderly by that curious dull glare in his eyes. Selamlik Pasha said to
Fielding that it was hashish; Fielding said it was a cross breed of
Soudanese and fellah. But little Dicky Donovan said it was something
else and he kept his eye upon Ibrahim. And Dicky with all his faults
could screw his way from the front of a thing to the back thereof like no
other civilised man you ever knew. But he did not press his opinions
upon Fielding who was an able administrator and a very clever fellow
also with a genial habit of believing in people who served him: and that
is bad in the Orient.
As an orderly Ibrahim was like a clock: stiff in his gait as a pendulum
regular as a minute. He had no tongue for gossip either so far as
Fielding knew. Also five times a day he said his prayers--an unusual
thing for a Gippy soldier-servant; for as the Gippy's rank increases he
soils his knees and puts his forehead in the dust with discretion. This
was another reason why Dicky suspected him.
It was supposed that Ibrahim could not speak a word of English;
and he seemed so stupid he looked so blank when English was spoken
that Fielding had no doubt the English language was a Tablet of Abydos to
him. But Dicky was more wary and waited. He could be very patient and
simple and his delicate face seemed as innocent as a girl's when he said
to Ibrahim one morning: "Ibrahim brother of scorpions I'm going to
teach you English!" and squatting like a Turk on the deck of the
Amenhotep the stern-wheeled tub which Fielding called a steamer he
began to teach Ibrahim.
"Say 'Good-morning kind sir'" he drawled.
No tongue was ever so thick no throat so guttural as Ibrahim's when he
obeyed this command. That was why suspicion grew the more in the mind of
Dicky. But he made the Gippy say: "Good-morning kind sir" over and
over again. Now it was a peculiar thing that Ibrahim's pronunciation
grew worse every time; which goes to show that a combination of Soudanese
and fellah doesn't make a really clever villain. Twice three times
Dicky gave him other words and phrases to say and practice made Ibrahim
more perfect in error.
Dicky suddenly enlarged the vocabulary thus: "An old man had three sons:
one was a thief another a rogue and the worst of them all was a
soldier. But the soldier died first!"
As he said these words he kept his eyes fixed on Ibrahim in a smiling
juvenile sort of way; and he saw the colour--the brownish-red colour--
creep slowly into Ibrahim's eyes. For Ibrahim's father had three sons:
and certainly one was a thief for he had been a tax-gatherer; and one
was a rogue for he had been the servant of a Greek money-lender; and
Ibrahim was a soldier!
Ibrahim was made to say these words over and over again and the red fire
in his eyes deepened as Dicky's face lighted up with what seemed a mere
mocking pleasure a sort of impish delight in teasing like that of a
madcap girl with a yokel. Each time Ibrahim said the words he jumbled
them worse than before. Then Dicky asked him if he knew what an old man
was and Ibrahim said no. Dicky said softly in Arabic that the old man
was a fool to have three such sons--a thief and a rogue and a soldier.
With a tender patience he explained what a thief and a rogue were and
his voice was curiously soft when he added in Arabic: "And the third son
was like you Mahommed--and he died first."
Ibrahim's eyes gloomed under the raillery--under what he thought the
cackle of a detested Inglesi with a face like a girl of an infidel who
had a tongue that handed you honey on the point of a two-edged sword.
In his heart he hated this slim small exquisite as he had never hated
Fielding. His eyes became like little pots of simmering blood and he
showed his teeth in a hateful way because he was sure he should glut his
hatred before the moon came full.
Little Dicky Donovan knew as he sleepily told Ibrahim to go that for
months the Orderly had listened to the wholesome but scathing talk of
Fielding and himself on the Egyptian Government and had reported it to
those whose tool and spy he was.
That night the stern-wheeled tub the Amenhotep lurched like a turtle
on its back into the sands by Beni Hassan. Of all the villages of Upper
Egypt from the time of Rameses none has been so bad as Beni Hassan.
Every ruler of Egypt at one time or another has raided it and razed it
to the ground. It was not for pleasure that Fielding sojourned there.
This day and for three days past Fielding had been abed in his cabin
with a touch of Nilotic fever. His heart was sick for Cairo for he had
been three months on the river; and Mrs. Henshaw was in Cairo--Mrs.
Henshaw the widow of Henshaw of the Buffs who lived with her brother a
stone's-throw from the Esbekieh Gardens. Fielding longed for Cairo but
Beni Hassan intervened. The little man who worried Ibrahim urged him the
way his private inclinations ran but he was obdurate: duty must be done.
Dicky Donovan had reasons other than private ones for making haste to
Cairo. During the last three days they had stopped at five villages on
the Nile and in each place Dicky who had done Fielding's work of
inspection for him had been met with unusual insolence from the Arabs
and fellaheen officials and others; and the prompt chastisement he
rendered with his riding-whip in return did not tend to ease his mind
though it soothed his feelings. There had been flying up the river
strange rumours of trouble down in Cairo black threats of rebellion--
of a seditious army in the palm of one man's hand. At the cafes on the
Nile Dicky himself had seen strange gatherings which dispersed as he
came on them. For somehow his smile had the same effect as other men's
This evening he added a whistle to his smile as he made his inspection of
the engine-room and the galley and every corner of the Amenhotep
according to his custom. What he whistled no man knew not even himself.
It was ready-made. It might have been a medley but as things happened
it was an overture; and by the eyes the red-litten windows of the mind
of Mahommed Ibrahim who squatted beside the Yorkshire engineer at the
wheel playing mankalah he knew it was an overture.
As he went to his cabin he murmured to himself "There's the devil to pay:
now I wonder who pays?" Because he was planning things of moment he
took a native drum down to Fielding's cabin and made Fielding play it
native fashion as he thrummed his own banjo and sang the airy ballad
"The Dragoons of Enniskillen." Yet Dicky was thinking hard all the time.
Now there was in Beni Hassan a ghdzeeyeh a dancing-woman of the Ghawazee
tribe of whom in the phrase of the moralists the less said the better.
What her name was does not matter. She was well-to-do. She had a
husband who played the kemengeh for her dancing. She had as good a house
as the Omdah and she had two female slaves.
Dicky Donovan was of that rare type of man who has the keenest desire to
know all things good or evil though he was fastidious when it came to
doing them. He had a gift of keeping his own commandments. If he had
been a six-footer and riding eighteen stone--if he hadn't been as
Fielding often said so "damned finicky" he might easily have come a
cropper. For being absolutely without fear he did what he listed and
went where he listed. An insatiable curiosity was his strongest point
save one. If he had had a headache--though he never had--he would at
once have made an inquiry into the various kinds of headache possible to
mortal man with pungent deductions from his demonstrations. So it was
that when he first saw a dancing-girl in the streets of Cairo he could
not rest until by circuitous routes he had traced the history of dancing-
girls back through the ages through Greece and the ruby East even to
the days when the beautiful bad ones were invited to the feasts of the
mighty to charm the eyes of King Seti or Queen Hatsu.
He was an authority on the tribe of the Ghawazee proving to their
satisfaction and his own their descent from the household of Haroon al
Rashid. He was therefore welcome among them. But he had found also
as many another wise man has found in "furrin parts" that your greatest
safety lies in bringing tobacco to the men and leaving the women alone.
For in those distant lands a man may sell you his nuptial bed but he
will pin the price of it to your back one day with the point of a lance
or the wedge of a hatchet.
Herebefore will be found the reason why Dicky Donovan--twenty-five and
no moustache pink-cheeked and rosy-hearted and "no white spots on his
liver"--went straight that particular night to the house of the chief
dancing-girl of Beni Hassan for help in his trouble. From her he had
learned to dance the dance of the Ghawazee. He had learned it so that
with his insatiable curiosity his archaeological instinct he should be
able to compare it with the Nautch dance of India the Hula-Hula of the
Sandwich Islanders the Siva of the Samoans.
A half-hour from the time he set his foot in Beni Hassan two dancing-
girls issued from the house of the ghdzeeyeh dressed in shintiydn and
muslin tarah anklets and bracelets with gold coins about the forehead
--and one was Dicky Donovan. He had done the rare thing: he had trusted
absolutely that class of woman who is called a "rag" in that far country
and a "drab" in ours. But he was a judge of human nature and judges of
human nature know you are pretty safe to trust a woman who never trusts
no matter how bad she is if she has no influence over you. He used to
say that the better you are and the worse she is the more you can trust
her. Other men may talk but Dicky Donovan knows.
What Dicky's aunt the Dowager Lady Carmichael would have said to have
seen Dicky flaunting it in the clothes of a dancing-girl through the
streets of vile Beni Hassan must not be considered. None would have
believed that his pink-and-white face and slim hands and staringly white
ankles could have been made to look so boldly handsome so impeachable.
But henna in itself seems to have certain qualities of viciousness in its
brownish-red stain and Dicky looked sufficiently abandoned. The risk
was great however for his Arabic was too good and he had to depend upon
the ghdzeeyeh's adroitness on the peculiar advantage of being under the
protection of the mistress of the house as large as the Omdah's.
From one cafe to another they went. Here a snakecharmer gathered a
meagre crowd about him; there an 'A'l'meh or singing-girl lilted a
ribald song; elsewhere hashish-smokers stretched out gaunt loathsome
fingers towards them; and a Sha'er recited the romance of Aboo Zeyd. But
Dicky noticed that none of the sheikhs none of the great men of the
village were at these cafes; only the very young the useless the
licentious or the decrepit. But by flickering fires under the palm-
trees were groups of men talking and gesticulating; and now and then an
Arab galloped through the street the point of his long lance shining.
Dicky felt a secret like a troubled wind stirring through the place
a movement not explainable by his own inner tremulousness.
At last they went to the largest cafe beside the Mosque of Hoseyn. He
saw the Sheikh-el-beled sitting on his bench and grouped round him
smoking several sheikhs and the young men of the village. Here he and
the ghdzeeyeh danced. Few noticed them; for which Dicky was thankful;
and he risked discovery by coming nearer the circle. He could however
catch little that they said for they spoke in low tones the Sheikh-el-
beled talking seldom but listening closely.
The crowd around the cafe grew. Occasionally an Arab would throw back
his head and cry: "Allahu Akbar!" Another drew a sword and waved it in
the air. Some one in front of him whispered one startling word to a
Dicky had got his cue. To him that whisper was as loud and clear as the
"La ilaha illa-llah!" called from the top of a mosque. He understood
Ibrahim the Orderly now; he guessed all--rebellion anarchy massacre.
A hundred thoughts ran through his head: what was Ibrahim's particular
part in the swaggering scheme was the first and the last of them.
Ibrahim answered for himself for at that moment he entered the burning
circle. A movement of applause ran round then there was sudden silence.
The dancing-girls were bid to stop their dancing were told to be gone.
The ghazeeyeh spat at them in an assumed anger and said that none but
swine of Beni Hassan would send a woman away hungry. And because the
dancing-girl has power in the land the Sheikh-el-beled waved his hand
towards the cafe hastily calling the name of a favourite dish. Eyes
turned unconcernedly towards the brown clattering ankles of the two as
they entered the cafe and seated themselves immediately behind where the
Sheikh-el-beled squatted. Presently Dicky listened to as sombre a tale
as ever was told in the darkest night. The voice of the tale-teller was
that of Ibrahim and the story was this: that the citadel at Cairo was
to be seized that the streets of Alexandria were to be swept free of
Europeans that every English official between Cairo and Kordofan was to
be slain. Mahommed Ibrahim the spy who knew English as well as Donovan
Pasha knew Arabic was this very night to kill Fielding Bey with his own
This night was always associated in Dicky's mind with the memory of
stewed camel's-meat. At Ibrahim's words he turned his head from the rank
steam and fingered his pistol in the loose folds of his Arab trousers.
The dancing-girl saw the gesture and laid a hand upon his arm.
"Thou art one against a thousand" she whispered; "wait till thou art one
He dipped his nose in the camel-stew for some one poked a head in at the
door--every sense in him was alert every instinct alive.
"To-night" said Mahommed Ibrahim in the hoarse gutturals of the
Bishareen "it is ordered that Fielding Bey shall die--and by my hand
mine own by the mercy of God! And after Fielding Bey the clean-faced
ape that cast the evil eye upon me yesterday and bade me die. 'An old
man had three sons' said he the infidel dog 'one was a thief another
a rogue and the third a soldier--and the soldier died first.' 'A camel
of Bagdad' he called me. Into the belly of a dead camel shall he go be
sewn up like a cat's liver in a pudding and cast into the Nile before
God gives tomorrow a sun."
Dicky pushed away the camel-stew. "It is time to go" he said.
The ghdzeeyeh rose with a laugh caught Dicky by the hand sprang out
among the Arabs and leapt over the head of the village barber calling
them all "useless sodden greybeards with no more blood than a Nile
shad poorer than monkeys beggars of Beni Hassan!" Taking from her
pocket a handful of quarter-piastres she turned on her heels and tossed
them among the Arabs with a contemptuous laugh. Then she and Dicky
disappeared into the night.
When Dicky left her house clothed in his own garments once more but the
stains of henna still on his face and hands and ankles he pressed into
the ghazeeyeh's hand ten gold-pieces. She let them fall to the ground.
"Love is love effendi" she said. "Money do they give me for what is no
love. She who gives freely for love takes naught in return but love by
the will of God!" And she laid a hand upon his arm.
"There is work to do!" said Dicky; and his hand dropped to where his
pistol lay--but not to threaten her. He was thinking of others.
"To-morrow" she said; "to-morrow for that effendi" and her beautiful
eyes hung upon his.
"There's corn in Egypt but who knows who'll reap it to-morrow? And I
shall be in Cairo to-morrow."
"I also shall be in Cairo to-morrow O my lord and master!" she
"God give you safe journey" answered Dicky for he knew it was useless
to argue with a woman. He was wont to say that you can resolve all women
into the same simple elements in the end.
Dicky gave a long perplexed whistle as he ran softly under the palms
towards the Amenhotep lounging on the mud bank. Then he dismissed the
dancing-girl from his mind for there was other work to do. How he
should do it he planned as he opened the door of Fielding's cabin softly
and saw him in a deep sleep.
He was about to make haste on deck again where his own nest was when
glancing through the window he saw Mahommed Ibrahim stealing down the
bank to the boat's side. He softly drew-to the little curtain of the
cabin window leaving only one small space through which the moonlight
streamed. This ray of light fell just across the door through which
Mahommed Ibrahim would enter. The cabin was a large one the bed was in
the middle. At the head was a curtain slung to protect the sleeper from
the cold draughts of the night.
Dicky heard a soft footstep in the companionway then before the door.
He crept behind the curtain. Mahommed Ibrahim was listening without.
Now the door opened very gently for this careful Orderly had oiled the
hinges that very day. The long flabby face with the venomous eyes
showed in the streak of moonlight. Mahommed Ibrahim slid inside took a
step forward and drew a long knife from his sleeve. Another move towards
the sleeping man and he was near the bed; another and he was beside it
stooping over. . .
Now a cold pistol suddenly thrust in your face is disconcerting no
matter how well laid your plans. It was useless for the Orderly to raise
his hand: a bullet is quicker than the muscles of the arm and the stroke
of a knife.
The two stood silent an instant the sleeping man peaceful between them.
Dicky made a motion of his head towards the door. Mahommed Ibrahim
turned. Dicky did not lower his pistol as the Orderly obeying softly
went as he had softly come. Out through the doorway up the stairs then
upon the moonlit deck the cold muzzle of the pistol at the head of
Dicky turned now and faced him the pistol still pointed.
Then Mahommed Ibrahim spoke. "Malaish!" he said. That was contempt.
It was Mahommedan resignation; it was the inevitable. "Malaish--no
matter!" he said again; and "no matter" was in good English.
Dicky's back was to the light the Orderly's face in the full glow of it.
Dicky was standing beside the wire communicating with the engineer's
cabin. He reached out his hand and pulled the hook. The bell rang
below. The two above stood silent motionless the pistol still
Holgate the young Yorkshire engineer pulled himself up to the deck two
steps of the ladder at a time. "Yes sir" he said coming forward
quickly but stopping short when he saw the levelled pistol. "Drop the
knife Ibrahim" said Dicky in a low voice. The Orderly dropped the
"Get it Holgate" said Dicky; and Holgate stooped and picked it up.
Then he told Holgate the story in a few words. The engineer's fingers
tightened on the knife.
"Put it where it will be useful Holgate" said Dicky. Holgate dropped
it inside his belt.
"Full steam and turn her nose to Cairo. No time to lose!" He had told
Holgate earlier in the evening to keep up steam.
He could see a crowd slowly gathering under the palm-trees between the
shore and Beni Hassan. They were waiting for Mahommed Ibrahim's signal.
Holgate was below the sailors were at the cables. "Let go ropes!"
A minute later the engine was quietly churning away below; two minutes
later the ropes were drawn in; half a minute later still the nose of the
Amenhotep moved in the water. She backed from the Nile mud lunged free.
"An old man had three sons; one was a thief another a rogue and the
worst of the three was a soldier--and he dies first! What have you got
to say before you say your prayers?" said Dicky to the Orderly.
"Mafish!" answered Mahommed Ibrahim moveless. "Mafish--nothing!" And
he said "nothing" in good English.
"Say your prayers then Mahommed Ibrahim" said Dicky in that voice like
a girl's; and he backed a little till he rested a shoulder against the
Mahommed Ibrahim turned slightly till his face was towards the east. The
pistol now fell in range with his ear. The Orderly took off his shoes
and standing with his face towards the moon and towards Mecca he
murmured the fatihah from the Koran. Three times he bowed afterwards he
knelt and touched the deck with his forehead three times also. Then he
stood up. "Are you ready?" asked Dicky.
"Water!" answered Mahommed Ibrahim in English. Dicky had forgotten that
final act of devotion of the good Mahommedan. There was a filter of
Nile-water near. He had heard it go drip-drip drip-drip as Mahommed
"Drink" he said and pointed with his finger. Mahommed Ibrahim took the
little tin cup hanging by the tap half filled it drank it off and
noiselessly put the cup back again. Then he stood with his face towards
"The game is with the English all the time" said Dicky softly.
"Malaish!" said Mahommed. "Jump" said Dicky.
One instant's pause and then without a sound Ibrahim sprang out over
the railing into the hard-running current and struck out for the shore.
The Amenhotep passed him. He was in the grasp of a whirlpool so strong
that it twisted the Amenhotep in her course. His head spun round like a
water-fly and out of the range of Dicky's pistol he shrieked to the
crowd on the shore. They burst from the palm-trees and rushed down to
the banks with cries of rage murder and death; for now they saw him
fighting for his life. But the Amenhotep's nose was towards Cairo and
steam was full on and she was going fast. Holgate below had his men
within range of a pistol too. Dicky looked back at the hopeless fight as
long as he could see.
Down in his cabin Fielding Bey slept peacefully and dreamed of a woman
THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE
In spite of being an Englishman with an Irish name and a little Irish
blood Dicky Donovan had risen high in the favour of the Khedive
remaining still the same Dicky Donovan he had always been--astute but
incorruptible. While he was favourite he used his power wisely and it
was a power which had life and death behind it. When therefore one day
he asked permission to take a journey upon a certain deadly business of