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ticket, and the train, without your noticing him?"
"Certainly, sir. He could have obtained his ticket through some one else; and, even if he had come himself, I might not have recognized him through the window."
This clerk was plainly a stupid fellow, who could only think of just one thing at a time.
"That, of course, is the very point," I said, impatiently. "Now, can you tell me what tickets were taken by the eight-forty-five?"
He was able to furnish this information at once. Three tickets had been taken for Lepping, an intermediate station, and five for Hinton Junction. There were no others. And I knew that Ashdon's must have been one of the five.
"Thank you," I said; "that will do very well;" and with that we passed out of the office.
The train was just being signalled, so there was still time. "The next thing," I said, hurriedly, "is to make things ready at Hinton Junction. It would be well to have a couple of men on the platform."
The Chief gave an almost imperceptible shrug of the shoulders; but his answer was satisfactory enough. "Very well," he said. "How many shall we require?"
"Two ought to be sufficient; and they ought to be in plain clothes, so that they may not alarm our quarry too soon."
We hastened down towards the telegraph office. I remained outside while my companion despatched the necessary message. It happened that one of the station officials was standing in the office at the time, and I could not help catching the words of a brief conversation between him and the Chief Constable just after the message had been sent. The official was evidently curious.
"You're travelling late."
"Yes," answered the officer. "Something up in Hinton, I suppose? Anything special?"
There was a brief pause. Then the officer answered, quietly:
"Nothing much. It's a kind of picnic, I fancy."
He spoke in such a level tone that I could not tell whether the remark was an intentional impertinence to me or only an evasion of the question which had been asked. I had no chance to consider, because just then the train came rushing in, some five minutes after her time. A group of waiting passengers emerged from various rooms and began to take their seats. We chose our own in an empty compartment of a second-class carriage. I did not anticipate a pleasant journey with such a companion as I had; but there was no help for it.
At the last moment when the train was on the point of starting, a man came rushing on to the platform and made straight for the nearest compartment. In fact, there was no time for him to choose a place, even if he had wished to do so; but the nearest compartment happened to be the one which we had selected for ourselves. At the instant of his appearance that door of the booking-office marked "Private," facing the platform, was hurriedly opened, and the clerk appeared on the threshold. He looked over towards the train with visible excitement in his face; but that was all we saw of him. After that glimpse we required all our attention for the new-comer.
He was a stout, blonde-bearded man, and he threw open the door of the compartment with a rush and commotion that were entirely unpleasant. A porter helped him in, and slammed the door upon his heels. In his right hand he bore a brown-leather travelling-bag, and his first act was to pitch this into
Morocco is the never-never land of Africa. Captious readers of the war news may, in their comfortable zeal, think the term applicable to other regions of that continent, but Morocco is the true land of rest, the country of tomorrow, whence are banished by Shereefian decree and national inclination all the discomforts attending ambition, progress and punctuality. Here, disgusted with the haste of a hurrying world, sick of the obligations and exactions of a pretentious civilization more tyrannous than the slavery of the East, the pilgrim on life's toilsome journey may rest as a storm-tossed vessel in a mangrove swamp-rest and rust and be thankful for the chancerest and rust and contemplate his dignified, white-robed, yellow-slippered fellows resting and rusting, untroubled with the fretting of a world wherein Christians cut one another's throat that they may liquidate wholly imaginary chances of a pavilion in Paradise.
In his Moorish garden, hammocked between two overladen orange-trees, inhaling the fragrance of lime and lilac, shaded from the fiery enemy overhead by the cool verdure of mulberry, fig and pomegranate, the wanderer may here realize the true art of living, with no regret for the past, no unrest about the future. Or, rather, he might do so, were it not for that accursed leavening of Saxon restlessness in his blue veins, that element of the machine that spoils the man. In the
printed news-sheets just delivered by the fleet-footed rekass—a shrivelled stripling of Sus, who walked the two hundred miles from the coast for a couple of dollars he is even now reading, with a feeling of contempt and wonder for the littleness of it all, the disasters on steamer track and railroad, the bickerings of rival diplomatists, the reprisals of rival armies, the winning of a race, the coming of age of a princeling, the centenary of a poet, the divorce of an actress. What on earth do all these episodes of the civilized life signify to one breathing the atmosphere of Bible days, battling with mosquitoes and sun-rays, lost in a white crowd of worshippers of a creed that scorns innovation as it scorns women? Having, with a wet towel in lieu of white flag, patched up a truce with the sand-flies and mosquitoes, he muses peacefully on the beauties of the Moorish life, and the music of water plashing from a marble basin on the cool mosaic pavement below is soothing to him in this mood.
The rhythmic droning of laborers at work on a neighboring building is powerless to disturb his reverie, but an undeniable interruption comes at last in the form of a knocking at the outer gate. Up jumps the squatting bluebreeched soldier from his form beneath the pomegranate-tree, testifying in his drowsy awakening to the perfection of the one God, and flings open the gates; then hurls maledictions-and would
fain shut the portals too-in the bearded face of a miserable old Jew, who would seek the protection of the powerful caballero inglés. That unbeliever, welcoming any distraction from his somewhat protracted spell of dolce far niente, into a proper Eastern love of which he cannot deceive himself, bids the janitor admit the gabardined mendicant, and, with the aid of his interpreter, makes out a tale of sordid penury and rank oppression. And he presently sends the son of Shem away smiling with a morsel of his abundance, carrying his black slippers beneath the arm, as prescribed for the dogs of his race in that city of the followers of the Prophet, and with the firm assurance that the next of his accursed tribe to visit the garden will get no fluss,' but a generous dose of the bastinado to warm his uncleanly feet. This injunction to secrecy is a wholly gratuitous postscript on the part of the interpreter, who, being a high-bred Syrian, likes not such scum in the garden. Away shuffles the successful applicant, with an unnoticed salaama to the stolid foot-soldier at the gate; and doubtless, once outside, spits in his beard with scorn of the ease with which the dog of a Nazarene is duped, and with much wistful speculation of the wealth he quickly would accumulate for black-eyed Rachel and her curly-headed litter, if only he could sojourn awhile in the great Northern cities, in that fruitful (and, he thinks, unexploited) Bernsara,' where nest many pigeons well worth the plucking.
Of another stamp, as evidenced at a distance by the obsequious mien of the doorkeeper, is the next comer, a handsome and haughty Moslem, his mule stepping quickly with head reined back, his gelabia3 of rich silky material. With him-the gates being thrown
1 Fluss are small copper coins.
'Land of the Nazarene,' 1. e. Europe.
wide there enters one of those priv. ileged creatures of Eastern communities, half-nude, half-witted, holy and proportionately impudent, who have as good a time of it on earth as ever they can hope for hereafter. He will presently, when the soldiers and servants have duly touched with their fingers the one faded rag that girds his sacred loins, sit in a corner and drink tea with the company, unrebuked, even rewarded when his time comes to go. A picturesque feature of the Eastern life is this beggar sherif, who condescends to take tea and alms with the air of a prince-bishop. Well is it for him that in such communities charity is still a virtue for its own sake, not an advertisement, and alms pass furtively from hand to hand, with no published lists in order of amount tendered.
And now the green tea goes round, brewed in a metal pot, with stalks of mint and cubes of beetroot sugar-a sickly concoction in truth, yet preferable to the spiced coffee that is the only alternative in a land where the sons of men appreciate neither alcohol nor cold drinks of any sort, and the daughters of men lend not the grace of their presence to the festive board. Quantity, however, makes up for quality, and the tiny cups are replenished a dozen times ere the wealthier visitor has paid his last compliment and glanced longingly at his drowsy mule that has just abandoned its third attempt to bite the near leg of the soldier slumbering just out of reach. And with him the saintly visitor, gathering up his rag and clasping his alms, glides away, assuring his host that he may, at his special intercession, perhaps have the top attic of a pavilion in Paradise, and that his reward will thus be great, though the price paid was miserable (in other words, he must not
A white outer garment reaching below the waist. A descendant of the Prophet.
rate heaven as trashy because it is cheap).
The Moorish evening follows swiftly on the day; the night on the evening. Hawks and kites are shrieking and whistling overhead; frogs serenade the moon from a neighboring ditch, breeding-place of mosquitoes; scorpions and centipedes meander in languid fashion from the foot of crumbingly masonry and prospect for plump feet fitting loosely in their yellow slippers; and mosquitoes, having abstained during the hottest hours of the afternoon, renounce their pledge as the temperature falls with the light and return to their drinking-troughs with renewed thirst. The call to evening prayer sounds plainly from the not distant mosquevery real, very penetrating. "The God He is God, and Mohammed is His Prophet." And the pious glide, slippered and silent, to the mosque, and return home to their smoking kabobs and sandy bread. And the unbelieving wanderer bids his men prepare the evening meal, and is soon making inroads on his mysterious tins of food that bring a half-regretful memory of Westminster and the crowded lifts and pushing women at the Stores, and washing out the bad tea with good whiskey. To the orthodox mind he is an accursed creature, vowed to the world, the flesh and the devil yet the more charitable would see in him a generous fellow, one who neither beats the beggar from his gate nor kicks his horse in the mouth, nor generally comports himself as a man of breeding should.
Amsmiz, and his final halt in the white city of the plain. Tangier fills his thoughts this balmy evening-the comely Eastern princess who keeps court on the threshold of two worlds, her courtyards thronged with modest paladins of finance and immodest diplomatists, Hebrews, Levantines, and Christians-who casts coquettish glances at that stern puritan Gibraltar, and dangles her white feet in the blue sea and glances occasionally over her shoulder at the desert, listening to the booming of guns before and the droning of prayers behind. Delightful, inconsequent maiden, all languishing glances and veiled passion and feline intrigue! in which European harem shall you at last shine?
Tangier once left behind, there comes the long ride inland, with the succession of home memories stirred by local color; the smiling fields of canary-seed, recalling bird-shops in Soho; wheat and barley, recalling Tattersall's; fig and vine, reminding him of early produce in Covent Garden Market, walled in by heaps of stones or by impenetrable cactus, defying all save the camel and the evil one.
Memories of the journey, its discomforts and its relieving humors, crowd on one another this peaceful evening at the journey's end-of orthodox chiefs who kept their faith, of others who kept everything else they could lay hands on; of ugly women who came near, and of beautiful women who stayed afar; of winding tracks and bubbling streams, grim old kasbahs, white Seeds wherein lie the cleanly bones of uncleanly men, of caravans of asses, and camels and mules. One day a hilly track with broad views of the burning plain; the next, the flat road, a mere scratch marked by the bones of fallen camels, too clean picked to stay wheeling vultures in their flight, with inspiriting glimpses
The Burial-place of saints.