THE little Negro boy was crying as he ran, turning his kinky head over his shoulder beseechingly at the tall figure striding behind him and thrusting him forward with a rigid hand on his shoulder. It was only too evident that the child was being hurried to some awaiting Nemesis, a little slave in robes of fine wool propelled forward by an angry master. The school-teacher from America turned rigid the moment her eye lit on the pair hurrying down the narrow lane toward her. As a woman, she felt she had a right to interfere in any matter concerning a child; as a Nordic, she felt she had a right to call any Arab to account.

‘Stop him, Mohammed,’she ordered breathlessly. ‘Find out what it’s all about.’

Mr. and Mrs. Pauling, who happened to be the only other members of the party there at the time, stopped, taking no part one way or the other.

Mohammed — who thought that the teacher, as a woman, should not be on the street at all, and, as a foreigner, should mind her own business — stopped perforce, between the devil and the deep sea. His bread depended on such fools as these, but he cringed at the sight of the well-to-do young man whom he was to accost in the midst of a simple act of household discipline.

But there is more than one way of skinning a cat, and Mohammed advanced suave and smiling.

‘Ask him what he is going to do to that child.’ demanded the teacher hotly in his ear.

‘Sir,’ said Mohammed, bowing, ‘you know how lacking in manners these foreigners can be! But the lady has taken a great liking to this little black of yours, and declares she has not seen a finer in Morocco.’ Mohammed’s English left much to be desired, but he lacked no power in his own tongue.

The young Arab halted, his hand firm on the shoulder before him.

‘She wishes to buy the creature?’ he asked — at which the child burst into renewed sobbing.

‘ I believe so, sir,’ answered Mohammed promptly. To the American he said, ‘Little boy run away. He fetch back home.'

‘By Allah, he deserves no better,’ exclaimed the Arab.

At this the child began bawling. He twisted in his master’s grasp, and, catching his other hand, began covering it with kisses.

‘O sir! O my lord! O my sun! Not to the white devils!’ he sobbed. ‘I will come the moment you clap your hands! I will be your shadow! I will never go to the circus again, even if the lions roar and roar forever!’

For the first time a slight twinkle appeared in the Arab’s eyes.

‘Perhaps I will not sell the little worthless this time,’he said to Mohammed, giving the child a gentle shake and letting him go, ‘but if he runs away again I shall send for you and give him to the white lady for three sous.’

‘A thousand thanks, O my protector!’ said the little boy, beginning to grin.

‘What does he say? What does he say?’ asked the teacher.

‘Boy sorry. All right now,’ said Mohammed.

‘We’d better be going on,’ said Mr. Pauling, who, though fond of children, was not fond of interfering in other people’s affairs.

‘What a cute little pickaninny he is,’ said the teacher, lingering.

‘What does she say?’ asked the Arab with dignity.

‘She praises the child,’ replied Mohammed.

The Arab, having a possession praised, felt the pleasure common to owners at such times. Although a wellto-do merchant, he had few dealings with foreigners, and felt much curiosity concerning their extraordinary ways.

‘Ask them if they will come to my house for kous-kous this evening,’ he said.

Come? Oh, indeed they would come with pleasure. Even the Paulings were glad to come. With smiles and bows the two little parties separated, full directions having been given to Mohammed, and the teacher had the real satisfaction of seeing the little Negro go off capering beside his master, not guessing for a moment that her part in the affair had been largely in the rôle of bugaboo.

‘I did n’t know they had slaves,’ said Mr. Pauling, ‘now that the French are here.’

Mohammed shrugged.

They climbed for several minutes, and turned corners. Then the lane entered a sort of tunnel with a stone bench along it. A great door in the wall led into a tiled porter’s lodge, and up more steps into the terraced gardens of the hotel.

‘Let’s have something to drink before we go in,’ suggested Mr. Pauling.

“I don’t believe I’d better,’ said the school-teacher.

‘Oh, do; it will taste so good. It’s Tom’s treat,’ said Mrs. Pauling.

‘How lovely!’exclaimed the American, sitting down and looking about the garden. She could not afford to buy many things in the souks or pay for such luxuries as liqueurs. It had taken the earnings of some years for her ticket. Here at Fez she felt that she was getting her money’s worth. The hotel had been the palace of a grand vizir, disgraced in a former reign. She was not sure if he was the one who had been chained to his dead brother for twenty days in a prison cell — anyway, it was in the family.

‘We do have such good times, don’t we?’ she asked as Mr. Pauling returned with a waiter carrying small glasses and bottles.

‘It is beautiful,’ said Mrs. Pauling, hitching her chair into the late afternoon sunshine. ‘You know, every city seems to specialize: camels and palms for Marrakesh, figs and storks for Rabat, horses and olives at Meknes — and here, would n’t you say it was poplars and mules?’

‘Well, there have been mules everywhere,’ said the teacher.

‘But they’re bigger here, and more of them with the high cerise saddles. Merchants and mules go together.’ Mrs. Pauling defended her position between sips.

‘What about the donkeys?’ asked her husband.

‘Oh, they’re everywhere, the poor unfortunate mice,’ said Mrs. Pauling, launching into a description of the wife of a French officer whom she had discovered in the courtyard of an inn, the head and soul of an organization called the Fondouk. Mrs. Pauling had thought her a remarkable woman, and imagined that the natives were of the same opinion, for she went about the city at all hours, driven by a superhuman energy, taking the sharp goads from donkey drivers, cutting galling straps, distributing saddle blankets, rewarding small boys whose animals were in good condition, collecting crippled horses, carrying with her own hands water to beasts left untended by their masters for days at the inns. She was without fear, and would catch a cruel master by the throat in the midst of a crowd of his friends; but in her very boldness lay her safety, for many thought her possessed by a spirit, a holy woman, a female marabout sent by Allah for the town’s discomfiture. The school-teacher, having no money, nor any interest in the sufferings of foreign animals, turned the subject completely.

‘And have you seen the favorite’s rooms?’ she asked the moment the opportunity offered.

‘Damp,’ said Mr. Pauling. ‘And the tortoise in her pool is dying. He does n’t like us foreigners. Give me the Grand Vizir’s room. Have you seen it? We may try to get changed into it to-morrow. It’s in a tower, with its own stair and bath. The windows are down to the floor, and all the furniture is native: cushions and low beds painted with flowers, and texts from the Koran cut in the plaster in a border over the tiling, and old lamps hanging from honeycomb ceilings. The town below looks like a bowl of cream. The tower even has the hand of Fatima daubed on the outside. I never saw such a place.’

‘It sounds wonderful,’ said the school-teacher, finishing the last drops in her glass. ‘I suppose I’ve got to go and dress. The water in my bathroom runs all muddy.’

As she walked between the rose trees toward the upper terrace her mind was turning over the thought of the Grand Vizir’s bedroom. Why should n’t she have it, since it was so nice? The Paulings had everything they wanted. They could buy and buy. Besides, he had only said maybe they would try to change their room. And they owed her something. If it had n’t been for her, they would n’t be going for kous-kous in a native house tonight. Surely she had a right to the Vizir’s room.

She had, as always, chatted a good deal with the French manager of the hotel, and now he made very little objection to her changing rooms. With the help of a chambermaid she rearranged her things, much elated. Never had she dreamed that her salary was to buy her the high towers of Moroccan vizirs. She wondered what she should say to the Paulings, and decided to keep still as long as she could and if necessary say that the manager had suggested the change of rooms. Her conscience did not trouble her.

When she had put on an apple-green taffeta dress which made her look more blond and buxom than ever, she sat down for a minute on one of the leather cushions by the windows. Through the heavy protective netting she looked past the terraces and poplars of the garden at the city, which lay below her in a sloping hollow in the hills. The minarets rose glowing above the blues of white roofs already in shadow. Far away the snows of the Middle Atlas shone like roses. The sky looked like a turquoise bowl, across which flew flocks of white herons seeking the dark shelter of trees growing beside one of the many streams whose waters she could hear. Again the teacher felt vaguely that she was getting her money’s worth, but her attention turned to find something human on which to fix. The women on the roofs of the town, in their rose and green dresses, come out to breathe the coolness of the descending evening, were too distant to interest her. But by craning her neck she could look down into the garden of the next house. The owner was sitting on a rug by a square pond with a book in his hands, while men in pigeon-colored robes came and went along the terraces.

’He must be awfully rich,’ thought the school-teacher, and sighed.


It was well after dark when they left the hotel, a spring evening cool and fresh. Their small procession clattered along the narrow lanes, led by a boy from the hotel, while Mohammed brought up a stately rear. It was the month of Ramadan, and all day, from the hour when a man could tell a white thread from a gray one, the faithful had been without food or drink. Now with the going down of the sun the food stalls were crowded with customers. The old merchants had taken the spectacles from their noses and were sipping thick soups. Bells rang everywhere as the half-naked water carriers brought their dripping goatskins from one thirsty mouth to another. Mr. Pauling noticed one of the men stopping to fill the cup of a blind beggar, running on again without pay.

‘Why are there so many blind men, Mohammed?’ he asked.

‘In old times, robbers, you know, put out the eyes,’ said Mohammed, smiling. Mr. Pauling stopped to drop a coin in the man’s dish.

There were trellises over the narrow streets, and the moonlight sifting through them lay like Roman mosaic on the earth. Against the walls rose the chants of beggars wrapped in old cloths like grave cloths. The light of the kerosene lamps of the little shops conflicted with the blue moonlight of the lanes. Occasionally the long crowing of a cock rose above the other sounds, and died in a thin halloo. Men with beards dyed with henna, women and children in shapeless robes, jostled the party from the hotel, which slowly cut its way through the crowd like a dull knife, amid the cries of ‘Balak! Balak!' (‘Make way! Make way!’) from the boy.

Once out of the souks they made better time, through narrow streets deserted of all but the moon and certain unsavory odors. Suddenly, when they least expected it, the boy stopped before a nail-studded door and rapped on a hand-of-Fatima knocker. The door was thrown open and they saw the Arab of the afternoon bowing and smiling.

‘Well, here we are,’ said the schoolteacher, laughing, ‘and I’m as hungry as a horse.’

Mohammed, somewhat at a loss, translated.

‘How do you do?' asked Mrs. Pauling.

‘How do you do, sir?’ said Mr. Pauling.

Their host led them into a large room with a fountain in the middle surrounded by a sort of arcade whose walls were lined with clocks, none of them exactly agreeing with its neighbors.

‘And they say we Americans are fond of keeping track of time!' said the school-teacher.

‘She admires your clocks,’ translated Mohammed, and the merchant bowed again. They then went up a stair, passing a door which closed as they neared it, shutting off a sound of excited laughter.

‘Can we meet his wives?' asked the teacher.

Mohammed pretended not to hear.

They entered a large room with a divan running along two walls. The floor was covered with a rose-flowered Brussels carpet over which, in the corner near a low folding table, a white cloth had been tacked. Taking off their shoes, the guests sat cross-legged on the divan, while their host gravely took his place opposite them on a cushion. The school-teacher looked around her. There was nothing here of the splendors of the East as she had imagined it.

‘Ask him how many wives he has,’ she told Mohammed.

I think it’s better not to,’ interposed Mrs. Pauling. ‘I believe one is not supposed to mention them. Let’s see, Mohammed, you might ask him if he has ever ridden in an automobile.’

Mohammed asked. The Arab, who had been waiting attentively, looking from one to another, now burst into smiles and spoke animatedly at some length.

‘Yes, he has,’ translated Mohammed.

‘Has he been in England?’ said Mr. Pauling.

This was translated. And again there was a long and apparently detailed reply which Mohammed simplified to ‘No, he has not.’

‘Has he been to France?’ asked Mrs. Pauling.

Mohammed brought back a ‘No.’

‘Has he been to America?’ asked the school-teacher.

There was further spirited talk between the men.

‘No,’ said Mohammed.

It was rather like a dull game of twenty questions. But there was nothing to be found out at the end of it. The Arab watched them anxiously, meditating what could be done for his guests’ amusement. Then, on an inspiration, he rose and walked to a cupboard, returning with a photograph, which he handed to Mr. Pauling. It represented the merchant against a velvet curtain, holding the handles of a bicycle with an air of great daring.

‘A very good likeness,’ said Mr. Pauling. The compliment, repeated after an explanation, reached the original through Mohammed, and was greeted with pleased smiles.

‘ Does he think that’s his Arab steed ?’ asked the school-teacher.

Mrs. Pauling said, ‘Very nice.’

They were all glad when the merchant clapped his hands and a bundledup servant girl, with her outer skirts tied behind her in a sort of bustle, entered with a long-necked brass pitcher, bowl, and napkin, with which she washed their hands, with difficulty restraining a nervous giggle. In a moment she returned with a huge platter of chicken and carrots, out of which they all ate, obeying Mohammed’s instructions to use only the thumb and two fingers of their right hand. Their host ate almost nothing, but picked out delicacies which he handed to each in turn on pieces of bread.

‘Gee, but this is good!’ said the teacher. ‘Tell him, Mohammed.’

The evening was looking up.

Mutton and artichoke hearts followed. Again their host waited until almost the entire dish had been eaten. Again the servant appeared, this time with highly spiced meat balls and sliced oranges swimming in sugar and cinnamon.

‘Help! I’ll die!’ cried the schoolteacher, licking her fingers.

‘We have to eat all we can, or it’s considered rude,’ said Mr. Pauling, manfully helping himself.

‘This is the third meat course,’ sighed Mrs. Pauling, ‘and I’m thankful we’ve reached dessert. I’ve done my best. But my jaws are nearly worn out. Every time I stopped to draw breath, he handed me something more.’ Then, seeing her host’s bright eyes fixed attentively on her face, she added, ‘Tell him, Mohammed, these oranges are delicious. We do not prepare them this way.’

There was a sudden shriek of real consternation from the school-teacher: —

‘Oh, lord! Here she comes with more!’

‘This is the kous-kous,’ said Mohammed.

‘Do you mean to say we have n’t been having kous-kous right along?’ they asked in a chorus.

‘This is the kous-kous,’ he repeated.

‘Once more into the breach, dear friends!’ cried Mr. Pauling, generously leading the attack on the new dish, a great platterful of farina, raisins, and pale beans, crowned with mutton. The farina offered unexpected problems. Mohammed and the merchant jiggled it neatly into a ball in the palms of their hands and tossed it down their throats.

‘I’m not going to eat any,’ said the teacher, flatly.

‘You must,’ murmured Mr. Pauling. ’The kous-kous is the symbol of hospitality.’

‘ I shall burst, then,’ said the teacher, helping herself gingerly.

The kous-kous was eaten amid despairing hilarity.

After the bowl and towel had again made their round, two little boys, one already very familiar, came into the room and made the circle of the guests, kissing their hands, and then, after kissing the Arab’s, climbed familiarly into his lap.

‘It is his son,’ said Mohammed, looking almost as proud as the father; ‘and the other is his son’s slave.’

‘The Arabs certainly love children,’ said Mr. Pauling.

The teacher sniffed,

‘Tell him they are beautiful children,’ said Mrs. Pauling.

But the merchant had almost forgotten these strange beings whose presence he had brought upon himself. Now with the children in his arms he was again at ease, gay and gentle. He was almost as tender with the little Negro as with his own son. The others watched, charmed by the scene.

Again the servant girl appeared.

‘More?’ asked the school-teacher wildly, rolling her eyes. She was now playing her part as guest in the spirit of farce. She had not been overawed as she had expected, but at least she might enjoy herself.

The servant set a fine hammered brass tray before the young merchant, who put the children beside him, where they sat as serious and still as two dolls. He himself made the tea, with cones of sugar from a brass box, and handfuls of fresh mint. When the drink had steeped he filled a small Bohemian glass, tasted the mixture, and poured the rest back into the kettle. Then he filled all the glasses and with a charming smile offered them to his guests. Mohammed drank his with a great snoring intake of breath.

‘That is polite,’ he said to the others.

The school-teacher laughed, flinging back her head. Then she too drank noisily, and laughed again. Mohammed showed how the glasses should be held — lightly, with the thumb and first finger of both hands.

‘Fancy!’ said Mrs. Pauling. ‘A tea ceremony in Morocco too. Tell him, Mohammed, it is very nice.’

‘Don’t the children have any?’ asked Mr. Pauling, looking at the two little boys, who sat as still as mice, their big eyes following everything that went on.

‘No,’ said Mohammed; ‘a son does not drink when his father is near.’

The same glasses were refilled and repassed in any order, but this time more sugar had been added.

‘No, thank you,’ said Mrs. Pauling, who was unable to tell which was her own glass.

‘Three glasses, always,’ said Mohammed firmly.

‘Thank you,’ said Mrs. Pauling, taking a glass without visible wincing. ‘Tell him, Mohammed, it is very good.’


The teacher continued drinking with noisy sips, but her eyes were on the brass tray. It stood on a low folding stand. The brass work was very fine, with a pattern delicate as moss. She was thinking how much she would like to have one in her apartment, and how pleasant it would be to say, ‘Oh, yes, I picked it up on my last trip to Morocco,’ when the other teachers admired it. But she had priced such trays in the shops and knew they were expensive. This was even finer than the ones she had seen — probably it was an old one.

As she sipped her third and sweetest glass of tea, she said, ‘Tell him, Mohammed, that is a beautiful tray.’

The merchant looked pleased, gave a slight bow, and smiled as he spoke.

‘It is yours,’ translated Mohammed casually.

‘Oh, really! How lovely! How lovely of him! Tell him I shall always remember him by it! Tell him — ’

‘But that is only a way of saying— ’ said Mohammed, looking very uncomfortable.

‘He gave it to me, did n’t he?’ said the teacher angrily.

‘But —’ said Mohammed.

‘You tell him what I say,’ said the teacher. ‘If there’s any mistake, he’ll say so, not you.’

Mohammed had thought he was beyond being humiliated by foreigners, but it was in a voice filled with shame that he spoke to the merchant. The other looked slightly surprised, then shrugged, and rose gracefully from his cushion, making a slight gesture of a hand to include the tray and the young woman.

The Paulings, who had watched the scene stiffening, could bear it no longer. After an exchange of looks, Mrs. Pauling said, ‘ But, my dear, really you must refuse it. You know that in the Orient such a speech is only a form of politeness and means nothing.’

‘It’ll teach him to be sincere, then,’ said the teacher, tossing her head, and trying to carry off the affair.

Mr. Pauling saw red.

‘I suppose when a man signs himself “Yours sincerely” you’d sue him for a breach of promise?’ he asked bitterly.

‘Tom!’ exclaimed his wife.

But the school-teacher was not listening. She was instructing Mohammed to tell the merchant how very much they had enjoyed the evening. It was so good for different races to get to know each other. The merchant bowed. The children came forward and kissed the strangers’ hands once more. In a queer silence they filed again down the steps, led by the merchant, with Mohammed in the rear carrying the tray as though it were hot. Their host never glanced at it as he opened the door for them into the moonlight. Mrs. Pauling had thought him a little childish with his photograph of a bicycle and his rows of clocks. Now he seemed to belong to something prouder and older than their civilization. She wished that she could find a way to explain and apologize. But it was impossible. She sighed and shook her head. He bowed as they crossed his threshold, and the yellow light from the doorway lay on the cobbles as they walked away. Then the door quietly closed again.

The school-teacher walked with her head held high. Her eyes smarted with tears. It had been a bad quarter of an hour, but she would never see the Arab again, and in a few weeks she would be saying good-bye to the Paulings. What did their opinion matter, really? The tray would remain. And he had certainly given it to her. She thought of her apartment and of the teas she would serve there, some day.

Per aspera ad astra,’ she said to herself, comforted.