CONVERSATION is the knottiest problem of long travel in the empty spaces with a solitary companion. ‘Shop’ — the next meal or the running of the car — is a rare stand-by, although it too can become highly controversial; but woe betide the pair of lonely trekkers who, after a disaster, — and in the wilds disasters are disasters when you are only two, — have not the knack of digging out topics which under no circumstances can produce controversy.
We were bumping through the middle of Sinai Desert and had just, after two sweating hours of jacking and digging and pushing and swearing, extricated ourselves and our long-suffering lorry caravan from a bog of loose sand, where my inexperience had landed us. I was the guilty party, so it was up to me to produce the safe topic. I was extremely unsuccessful.
‘Tell me,’I began hopefully; ‘if you were a free man, what country would you like to live in most?’
My companion was nursing a finger badly burned on the exhaust — and a grievance.
‘Not Sinai, anyhow.’
I laughed gayly — but somewhat nervously.
‘Good gracious, no! But seriously; where would you like to live?’
‘Do you mean live alone, or with one person,’— a nasty dig, that, — ‘or just live?’
‘Oh, just live.'
He thought for five minutes.
‘England or Canada.'
‘Because I like good roads and my own language and my own food.’
‘Yes.’ I let the vowel hang long on my tongue before I reached the sibilant s. ‘Perhaps you’re right; but I think I’d be bored that way. If I were free, I’d like to live in Ireland or Palestine.'
‘Good Lord, why?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m happy there.'
He looked at me quizzically.
’Umph,’ he said. ‘The real reason is that you’re a sloppy sentimentalist. You live on romance and all that. That’s why you’re always dreaming and don’t look where you are going. Now I bet that when you crashed us into that sand you were thinking of Jerusalem the Golden or the Lakes of Killarney or . . .'
I feverishly switched the subject to a discussion as to whether the evening eggs should be scrambled or fried, and peace descended on the desert. But he had been quite right. I had been dreaming; and I had been dreaming of Jerusalem. Next evening, when we did reach the Holy City, I wrote in my diary: —
Let us go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates,
Romance and solid materialism are surprisingly amenable bedfellows on a long Near Eastern trek; but at times they wisely agree to differ. So, while my friend tested hill climbing and gear ratios and petrol consumption in the Mountains of Moab, I trailed the highways and byways of Palestine in search of life and romance; and, as my friend was a materialist, I made my diary my confidant.
My first morning in Jerusalem I had sallied forth early and my way took me through the Damascus Gate, across the Via Dolorosa, and on down toward the Haram es Sherif, or, as it is perhaps better known in Jewry and Christendom, the Temple Area. And my luck was in. Going my road, I met an old friend, a distinguished member of the Supreme Moslem Council, and we greeted each other warmly and at great length. And so to the diary: —
‘He had a free morning and I must see the tomb of the Mauvlani Mohammed Ali el Hindi. It was new since my last visit, and he stressed its importance for Jerusalem and, indeed, for all Islam. For the burial of this distinguished Indian politician in the Haram had made Jerusalem the Arlington of the Moslem world, and henceforth it would be vested with tradition throughout all Arabdom, as being the mausoleum of the great men in Islam. “Politically this aspect of the case has its merits. Jerusalem, anyhow, is not a Jewish mausoleum.” My friend gave me a sly smile, and in another minute we were through the gloomy archway and out on to the great paved platform of the Haram.
‘The day had warmed into spring and there were sunshine and clear sky. I wish you could see it all. The whiteness of the pavement beneath the dark green of the cypresses; the graceful flights of wide easy steps, and above them the blue-tiled cupola of the Dome of the Rock, standing out like the crown of some long-forgotten Shah of Persia, against the greens and grays of the Mount of Olives. It was lovely. And there were crowds everywhere. For in the month of Ramadan, the fellahin (peasants), when they are fasting, — and during Ramadan no morsel of food, no drop of water, may pass the “true believer’s” lips between sunrise and sunset, — come to the Holy Precincts for repose and to be convenient for the routine of the daily prayers. There were rows and rows of them sitting half-drowsed, some on the grass, some on the pavements. And every now and then one of them would rise to his feet and go over to the ablution basins, where he would purify himself— feet, hands, face, and teeth; and then he would return to his place and stand and prostrate himself in prayer toward Mecca, alone, and absolutely indifferent to all around him, and by them as completely ignored. Islam is impressive in its individualism — no priests, no service, only worship.
‘My friend seemed to read my thoughts and spoke with bitterness of the iconoclasm of Mustapha Kemal in Turkey. “Every man has religion in his soul,” he said slowly. “Not that every man is religious in observance. The observance is but an outward sign of an inward instinct. But the instinct is there in all of us, whatever we believe — an instinct that there is a God and a kind God; and to try to stifle it or any other such instinct by legislation is silly. It were better for the man who has not the knowledge in his soul that there is a God that he had never been born, be he Moslem, Jew, or Christian.”
‘Then we came to Mohammed Ali el Hindi’s tomb. He died in London when he was attending the Indian Round Table Conference as Moslem delegate, and the invitation that he should be buried here was accepted only ten days before his body reached Jerusalem. In those ten days, Moslem enthusiasm worked wonders. The tomb — it is really a tiny chapel — was a disused room of a Zawia (pilgrims’ hostel) built along the arched cloister of the Haram. They cleaned it and repaneled and repaved it in marble; a new entrance was opened into the cloisters; a superb new door, brassbound and copper-bossed, was made and fitted; and two new windows, glazed in green and red and of perfect Arabesque tracery, were opened in what had been a blank wall. Meanwhile priceless carpets and hanging lamps were dug out of the Mosque’s treasure stores, and the best stone carvers and artists in Palestine worked as they had never worked before, to make and adorn the inscription to the dead and the pilasters of the doorway. The results are beautiful — gold lettering on a turquoise-blue foundation, and at every corner the medallion of Burak, the mythical horse which bore Mohammed in one bound from Medina to Jerusalem.
‘The whole thing is a miracle of achievement; but my friend was studiously modest. “He was a great man and we are proud to have him here. It was only our duty to give him a last resting place worthy of his name in Islam.”
‘And so we fell to talking of Jerusalem, and he quoted the Koran. “No man may see Paradise before he dies; but let him come to Jerusalem and he will have a foretaste of its beauty.” It was a Friday, and as we talked we made our way to a corner of the Precincts overlooking the Wailing Wall. Forty feet below me, I could see heaped up — that is the mot juste — against the huge monoliths hewn and placed by Solomon’s workmen a dense crowd of Jews. But among them I noticed none of the new post-war immigrant class. All conspicuously belonged to the picturesque pre-war type, the men with beaver-trimmed, wide-brimmed hats and side ringlets, the women with gay handkerchiefs on their heads and wearing stiff and bunchy skirts. They were Oriental to look at, and their endless lament over the destruction of the Temple had an Oriental lilt and measure. Solo and unison and all in a wailing minor; and as they sang they caressed and kissed the huge stones and washed them with their tears. And their tears were real.
‘My friend watched them dispassionately. “They too, poor things, love Jerusalem, just as we love it; and they too have religion in their hearts; and Jerusalem is the centre of their religion, as it is of ours. But” — and his voice became metallic — “there are other Jews, the new Jews, who would make it the political capital of their state. Never!” And he turned sharply on his heel.
‘He next brought me to the El Aksa Mosque. It is as large as St. Paul’s, but we found it almost empty, save at the farther end near the Praying Niche, pointing to Mecca. There a single row of peasants, Arabs in Arab dress, were making their prayers — up and down, up and down. I could see the clean soles of their bare feet; they looked like strikers in a piano. And the whisper of their prayers came to me as from a great distance, like a tiny echo among the rocks. It was terribly impressive, that unorganized, unconducted worship; somehow far more impressive than drilled fervor can ever be. And while I took stock of the place, — the vaulted dome with its mellow design of yellows and greens, the reds and pinks of the acres of carpet against the golds and blues of the walls, the endless vista of tiny colored hanging lamps, — he told me of Mohammed Ali’s funeral.
‘“We were six thousand in here that day and there were ten thousand more outside. There was nowhere an inch of room; we could only bow in the prayers, to kneel was impossible. Thus do we bury our great men in Jerusalem.”
‘It was nearing noon, and on our way out we passed a crowd of peasants entering for the midday prayer. They all looked at me and at my foreign clothes and hat; and I heard one mutter under his breath, “ Ya Jahudi ” (“O Jew”). I did feel an intruder.
‘The next day, Saturday, I visited the Holy Sepulchre. My visit was beautifully timed. The Church and the Holy Sites were being purified and censed in preparation for the Sunday services; when I entered, Latin monks were singing in glorious unison a grand Gregorian chant in Calvary. They finished; and in the half-light I saw them come clattering down the narrow stairs in their sandals, each with a lighted candle in one hand, the other holding up the skirt of his heavy brown habit. Once on the main level of the church, they formed up round the “Place of the washing of the body of Our Lord,” a great slab of alabaster which glistened, amber color, by the light of their flickering candles. They knelt in a wide circle on the stone pavement, reading from their missals by the light of their candles; and in the deep gloom of the place their pale bearded faces showed up like lanterns hung against a dark sky. One priest intoned; there were bursts of full-throated unison; the slab was censed from every side in the form of the Cross, and the scent of the incense came to me in great suffocating waves. Then a long “Amen” and a pause for meditation; .and the procession re-formed and moved into the Rotunda.
‘The afternoon sun sent slanting rays through the narrow windows high up in the galleried walls, and against their grayness the alabaster Tomb stood out like a great catafalque. The monks halted on the threshold. There was more censing, and another ringing Gregorian chant, which rose and fell as the echoes carried it up and up and round and round the galleries and alcoves above us. I stood watching from the steps of the Catholicon above them; and from this height I could just see past the door and into the Tomb itself. A Greek priest (the Tomb belongs to the Orthodox Church) stood motionless against the wall, and kneeling in front of the slab which covers the place of the Burial were two countrywomen from Bethlehem, wearing the high starched coifs and the short red coats and thick black skirts which have been peculiar to Bethlehem since Crusader days. They bowed low over the marble stone and kissed it; and then, rising quietly, backed awkwardly out of the Presence. I thought of my friend of the day before. “They too love Jerusalem.”
‘Meanwhile a procession of Greek priests, wearing the tall black brimless hats and the long black cassocks of their Church, had entered the Catholicon behind me. They too were preparing for the Sunday, and in the deep shadow of the great gilded wood-carved reredos, which hides the High Altar, there was more heavy censing, more minor-keyed chanting. It seemed intensely mediæval and it was mediaeval; where I stood, I was back in the Middle Ages. For by my feet was a curious monument, jutting out from the middle of the marble pavement like an egg cup. It marks the centre of the world and carries back to the days when the world, then the centre of the Universe, was a flat plate, revolving round Jerusalem, which was the centre of all things known.
‘The Greeks in their turn passed on to Calvary, where they too would hold services on the morrow; so I betook myself to the vaulted Ambulatory, and had just felt my way past the “Place of the Scourging” — the darkness of the high, narrow passage is almost dangerous — when I heard sounds of more singing. It seemed to come from under the ground. I stumbled on, and the voices became suddenly loud and clear. I was standing at the top of the stairway leading down to Saint Helena’s Chapel, where the True Cross was found, and, looking down, I saw climbing to meet me a procession of the Armenian Church. One by one the priests filed past me, quaint, sturdy little men, — as are all Armenians, — each wearing the odd black candleextinguisher hood which is the uniform of their calling, and each carrying a guttering candle in his hand. And I felt for all the world — and I am not being flippant — that I was watching a procession of the “little people” clambering out of their fairy mine. They too were bound for Calvary, and I followed them toward the door of the church.
‘ On my way out, I stopped for a moment to greet an old friend of mine, the Moslem custodian of the Sepulchre. The post has been in his family for centuries; but it is a sad reflection on Christendom in Jerusalem that only a Moslem can be trusted to keep the peace among the jealousies — indeed, to stop the fighting of the sects whose duty it is to worship Him who came to bring peace and good will upon earth.’
Sunday afternoon found me in Bethlehem to revisit the Church of the Nativity; and once more I was happy in my guide. He was a native of the village and loved the church. Of course he had the failings of the professional guide — a weakness for titled names whose owners he had, or had not, escorted round the church; but after he had heard me loose a flood of very fluent Arabic oaths at an itinerant vendor of olivewood horrors, he dropped the titles and we got on famously. Indeed, he is one of the few guides I have ever respected. I have never liked any.
‘For a time I was distrustful,’ reads my diary. ‘He was so glib and so plausible. But in the end a certain flair for the dramatic completely won me. And, once I had been won, I listened with all my ears. Not that it was at all an effort. He was soon so interesting that I could n’t help listening. How the Empress Helena had had a dream guiding her to the Place of the Birth; how she had followed the instructions of the dream; how they had led her to an incredibly old inn, which was almost in ruins; how beneath the remains of the living rooms she had discovered in almost perfect repair a long range of low, stonevaulted stables; and how in one of them — in the precise position in which the dream had told her to expect it — she had found the wooden manger.’
(Incidentally the manger was subsequently ‘transferred’ to Italy and is now in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.)
‘ The Empress had straightway pulled down the main building of the old inn and had built her church over the vaulted stable. “The church, indeed,” commented my Cicero, “must be one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Christendom.” Little remains of her building to-day; and but for an odd chance all would have been destroyed. During one invasion, the church was spared only because its Moslem invaders, just as a torch was being applied to consign it to flames, spotted betimes in one of the frescoes on the walls the figures of the three Magi. By some freak of fortune, the artist, instead of painting his subjects as heroic figures in the Greek style, had remembered that they were “Wise Men from the East” and had had the taste and the knowledge to depict them in semiArab, semi-Persian dress. As a result, the Moslem iconoclasts mistook them for heroes of Islam and refrained from destruction.
‘But the fortunes of the church have been terribly checkered. In Crusader times, the flower of Christian knighthood stabled their war horses in the nave; and later, under the Arabs, the place was let out as quarters for camels which had not been sold in the market outside. “In those days Christian worship must have been almost a secondary function in the building; but let us hope,” went on Cicero piously, “that a common persecution at any rate bred harmony. Would that harmony existed to-day among the various churches which worship here! What goes on is a scandal, and has been so for years. Stand-up fights on the altar steps and even in the Grotto itself. An Armenian procession crosses a carpet which belongs to the Latins; a corner of a Greek matting overlaps a tiny section of pavement in the Armenian zone; a Latin floor sweeper sends some of his Latin dust flying over the boundary flagstone between Latin and Greek territory. And, six times out of ten, the outcome is fracas and even fisticuffs.”
‘ We had advanced through the nave and had climbed the high steps leading up to the platform before the High Altar. “Do you see this strip of pavement?” He pointed to a well-worn length of floor just below where we stood. “That was the beat of the Turkish soldier-sentry; for here, as in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, there had to be a Moslem guard to keep the peace among the Christians. Now you British are in the place of the Turks. But, although you are Christians, in the eyes of the Christian priesthood who worship here you are no better than the Turks, and that strip is forever defiled. Come any morning and you will find a British policeman here with his broom; and, watching to see that he does not clean beyond his strict limits, and that after he has cleaned no jot of defiling dust falls from his pan to pollute the neighboring floor, will be a Latin and a Greek and an Armenian priest.”
‘We passed on to the head of the twisting stairway leading down to the Grotto of the Birth; and my guide pointed out two faded tapestries on the wall. “There is a terrible quarrel on just now. One of those hangings belongs to the Greeks, the other to the Latins. Two months ago a passer-by inadvertently disturbed them, and two of the nails by which they were fastened to the wall fell to the ground. These were carefully picked up; but the problem was: Who should replace them? The Greeks would not allow the Latins to do it, and vice versa; and eventually, to end the deadlock, the British Governor in Jerusalem came and hammered them in himself. That made things far worse. The Latins were furious, because, they claimed, he had replaced them wrongly, making a fraction of the Greek tapestry impinge on their section of the wall. And now the Vatican has taken the matter up with your Foreign Office. These Judæan hills are too high for Europeans; the altitude breeds hysteria.”
‘The Grotto itself is full of distressing evidence of Christian discord and rivalry. From the roof hang myriads of lamps; some belong to the Greeks, some to the Latins, some to the Armenians; and there have been wild fights when one church lit a lamp belonging to a rival sect. The domed recess over the Place of the Birth is still charred and smoke-stained. That damage dates from Christmas Eve in 1870, when the Latins and the Greeks came to blows and between them set the place on fire. Below the dome on the floor level is a brass and silver star nailed to the ground. It was the spark that kindled the Crimean War. The Greeks own the site and they placed the star there as a memorial. The Latins protested that this was an infraction of the status quo, and when the Greeks refused to remove the offending plaque they surreptitiously took it away. There was a terrible flare-up. The Russians supported the Greek Church, and Napoleon III and the French took up the cudgels for the Latins.
'"The story is still told of the final rupture,” said my guide. “The Turks made an eleventh-hour attempt to patch up the quarrel through the mediation of the Vali of Jerusalem, and he invited both the French and the Russian minister to state their case before him here, where we are standing now. They came. Neither would yield an inch. High words were exchanged, and eventually the Russian departed up that stairway into the Greek Convent, and the Frenchman up the other into the Latin Church. It was the breaking off of relations, and the result was two years of misery in the Crimea.” I listened spellbound. On our way out, we stood again on the altar platform looking into the west down the nave. “I’ve often wondered about your share in the Crimea,” remarked my friend. “ It was so odd that a quarrel which originated here should have involved you on the side of the Latins from whom you had revolted under Henry VIII. Perhaps it was the roof. It is of English oak which was sent here by another English king, one of Henry’s ancestors. Still, that does not explain much. The nave of the church and its roof belong to the Greeks, who were being backed by your enemies, the Russians. Religion and politics in Palestine are very complicated.”’
My next ploy carried me back to B.C. 700. ‘And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’ A chance meeting with one of the powers that be led to an invitation which amounted to a privilege. Thus it was that I of the twentieth century walked the whole length of the conduit which Hezekiah had made. I said ‘walked.’ I should have said ‘waded’; for it was an expedition through water up to my knees, flowing as it has always flowed for twenty-seven centuries. But before I plunged I fortified myself from my Bible, which, in Palestine, is my constant companion, just as my diary is my confidant.
Hezekiah was threatened by Sennacherib, the Assyrian, and the foreign invader was at the gates of Jerusalem. But the Jewish king was no mean strategist. Large invading armies must have assured water supplies. And he ‘stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?’ The pool Hezekiah made is the Pool of Siloam; the fountain he tapped is now known as the Virgin’s Well. And now for my diary: —
‘X met me at the Zion Gate and together we stumbled and slithered down the steep slopes of Ophel. His dress rather alarmed me. He was in shorts and sand shoes. I was wearing a smart suiting and town boots — but not for long. Once arrived at the Virgin’s Well, I was summarily bustled behind a convenient wall and told to hurry up. Off went my trousers and my socks; I pulled my very genteel woolen pants as high as I could up my fat thighs; then I hastily hid my nakedness and most of my abbreviated pants under my raincoat, put on my lovely boots once more, and, feeling rather like a comic mid-winter bather, picked my way gingerly over the rough path to the entrance of the Well. And there, for five ridiculous minutes, I had to stand on show in front of a troop of giggling tourists, while two small Arab girls drew the household water from the depths below. I felt a perfect figure of fun. At last they were done; and both of us lighted our candles and in we plunged. My first step was on to a narrow slippery plank, spanning three yards of pool. “Take care,” said X over his shoulder. “It’s six foot deep.” I took great care and survived; and we swung sharp left and were in the conduit.
‘It was pitch-dark, barely as wide as the span of my shoulders, and only in places high enough for headroom. My beautiful boots squelched indignantly in two foot of oozing mud; swishing water lapped my uneasy calves; and I felt all manner of things. I was again in the Catacombs; and then suddenly the rush of the water and the spissy light (my candle, incidentally, went out after twenty yards, but that did not matter, as I was behind) carried me back to the Cork Exhibition and 1902, when for a fee of sixpence I had a thrilling ten minutes negotiating the “Mysterious Canal” in a spinning and bumping tub through oily subterranean waters. But this was far better. The water rushed and sang as we swung on in step, and there were a sigh and a hiss, as of the sea lapping the entrance of a cave.
‘Once I was acclimatized, I surrendered myself to pure romance, and stepped back twenty-seven centuries. I could see clear-cut on the walls, and all obliquely inclined away from me, the pickmarks of Hezekiah’s hewers of stone; and I became one with them in spirit,as, cramped and suffocating, they swung and recovered in a desperate race against time to get the conduit through before Sennacherib arrived. They and I were working toward the twin party which had started simultaneously from the Pool of Siloam to meet us; and as I trudged and splashed my way I almost shared the excitement of the Jewish engineers of twenty centuries ago. They had reckoned the total distance and knew how far each party progressed daily; but they were no better than burrowing moles, for they had no compass to ensure the subterranean meeting of the two parties. And all the time Hezekiah was fussing like a madman. “Hasten, hasten! The Assyrians are at Galilee, at Nablus, at Ram Allah!”
‘Suddenly I was twisting and turning with the tunnel. The two parties were very close. They could hear each other’s picks. But where? Where? I passed a cul-de-sac where they had cast and drawn a blank, — labor in vain and a cruel waste of valuable time, — and then, all at once, X and his candle disappeared round a sharp rightangled corner. This was no false line. We had met the Siloam party. And there on the walls were their pick marks; for they leaned obliquely toward me. I all but shook X warmly by the hand to congratulate Hezekiah. We halted a minute or two to take breath, for it had been hard work; and there, above our heads, was a gaping hole where the Jewish inscription had been, to tell the story of their labors and triumph. To-day the tablet is somewhere — goodness knows where — in Constantinople; for the Turks “removed” it in the service of science and it lies unheeded and unintelligible in some corner of a Stambul museum — or rubbish heap. Cut the triumph had been achieved; the conduit was pierced, and the Assyrian army was waterless in the arid Judæan hills. So Sennacherib “returned with shame of face to his own land.”
‘We stumbled on, and gradually the levels became easier — and the mud deeper. Almost imperceptibly X’s candle seemed to lose brightness; a pin prick of white light appeared far ahead; in two minutes we were bathed in the sunlight of Siloam’s Pool. Two furious Arab matrons greeted us shrilly. They were washing the household linen and we had churned the water into a muddy coffee. But I know my East by now. It is less the soft word than the ready quip that turneth away wrath. I pulled up my raincoat. “Your washing is not all that has been muddied. Look at my calves.” They screamed with laughter.'
A few days later we were climbing our last stretch of Palestinian road from the submarine depression of the Lake of Galilee up to the mountain road which was to take us to Syria. And there we met Abdel Kader, the soldier of fortune. It was from him I learned that Palestine is still what the Low Countries were in Alva’s days and Bohemia when Wallenstein was on his campaigns — the happy hunting ground of the carefree cynical professional warrior.
‘Just above Tiberias,’ reads the diary, ‘we took a huge Arab aboard. He looked like a Turkish Bashi-Bazouk and talked nineteen to the dozen; and soon he was telling us the story of his life with great, gusto. He had been a Turkish soldier for a time and had fought on Gallipoli and in Palestine. “I joined [what he really meant was ‘deserted to’] the British army in 1916. The Turkish army was no good to us Arabs. The Turks were ready to hang us as spies on the slightest provocation; they gave us no food and no pay; and you British had lots of guns and shot infernally straight. So it seemed to me I was doomed anyway — the gallows, starvation, or, at best, a nasty wound. It was nervous work joining you, but I went over just before dawn. Your sentry made a bad shot, and I was in your trenches with my hands up before he had time to reload.
‘“The British army was fine. We went to a lovely prisoners’ camp in Egypt — lots of food, two blankets each, and, of course, no work. And then one day, to our disgust, a young English officer came and asked us to go and fight for the Arabs against the Turks in the Hejaz. We did n’t want to go at all, but the officer was so polite that we could n’t say no at once. So we asked him, ‘ Will there be bully beef and blankets?’ He said, ‘Of course; and new uniforms and a gun each and pay.’ So we decided to go. And it was fine in Mecca, too — lots of British money and food and no war, and, of course, no work.
‘“And it was better still after the Armistice. We were all sent to King Feisal in Damascus — more new uniforms, grand food, British pay again, and, of course, no work. I’d have stayed there forever.
‘“But the French came and spoiled everything. They turned Feisal out, and back we had to go to Mecca. But this time it was rotten. There was no British money, and so we got no pay. And, worse than that, Ibn Saud started a war against us. He was sure to win, and I did n’t want to get killed, so I went away pretty quick and joined the Emir Abdulla in Transjordan. It was better than Mecca, but not much; however, although the pay was wretched, there was no Ibn Saud. We could always manage to make a bit of cash on the sly, too, by selling our rifles to the Jews in Palestine; and I hung on in Amman until a month ago.
‘“And now I’m not going to be a soldier any more — until the next war. I’m going to be married in Damascus. A friend of mine has fixed it all up. She’s thirty, which is a bit old; but she wants a husband and has a fair dowry and I’m not particular. So this is my wedding journey and your car is my bridal carriage.” He laughed until the tears ran down his face.
‘He was going to enter Syria across the “Bridge of the Daughters of Jacob”; and when he demanded to be put down I asked him if he was sure that his passport was in order. “Passport?” he said. “What do I want with a passport? What do I care about frontiers? I am an Arab and the son of an Arab. Syria and Palestine and Transjordan belong to the Arabs."'