The Project Gutenberg EBook of Jimgrim and Allah's Peace, by Talbot Mundy
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Title: Jimgrim and Allah's Peace
Author: Talbot Mundy
Release Date: February 28, 2004 [EBook #11357]
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK JIMGRIM AND ALLAH'S PEACE ***
JIMGRIM AND ALLAH'S PEACE
by Talbot Mundy
To Jimgrim: whose real name, rank, and military distinctions,
I promised never to make public.
I. "Look for a man named Grim."
II. "No objection; Only a stipulation."
III. "Do whatever the leader of the escort tells you."
IV. "I am willing to use all means—all methods."
V. "D'you mind if I use you?"
VI. "That man will repay study."
VII. "Who gives orders to me?"
VIII. "He will say next that it was he who set the stars in the
sky over El-Kerak, and makes the moon rise!"
IX. "Feet downwards, too afraid to yell"—
X. "Money doesn't weigh much!"
XI. "And the rest of the acts of Ahaziah—"
XII. "You know you'll get scuppered if you're found out!"
XIII. "You may now be unsafe and an outlaw and enjoy yourself!"
XIV. "Windy bellies without hearts in them."
XV. "I'll have nothing to do with it!"
XVI. "The enemy is nearly always useful if you leave him free to
XVII. "Poor old Scharnhoff's in the soup."
XVIII. "But we're ready for them."
XIX. "Dead or Alive, Sahib."
XX. "All men are equal in the dark."
"Look for a man named Grim."
There is a beautiful belief that journalists may do exactly as they please, and whenever they please. Pleasure with violet eyes was in Chicago. My passport describes me as a journalist. My employer said: "Go to Jerusalem." I went, that was in 1920.
I had been there a couple of times before the World War, when the Turks were in full control. So I knew about the bedbugs and the stench of the citadel moat; the pre-war price of camels; enough Arabic to misunderstand it when spoken fluently, and enough of the Old Testament and the Koran to guess at Arabian motives, which are important, whereas words are usually such stuff as lies are made of.
El Kudz, as Arabs call Jerusalem, is, from a certain distance, as they also call it, shellabi kabir. Extremely beautiful. Beautiful upon a mountain. El Kudz means The City, and in a certain sense it is that, to unnumbered millions of people. Ludicrous, uproarious, dignified, pious, sinful, naively confidential, secretive, altruistic, realistic. Hoary-ancient and ultra-modern. Very, very proud of its name Jerusalem, which means City of Peace. Full to the brim with the malice of certainly fifty religions, fifty races, and five hundred thousand curious political chicaneries disguised as plans to save our souls from hell and fill some fellow's purse. The jails are full.
"Look for a man named Grim," said my employer. "James Schuyler Grim, American, aged thirty-four or so. I've heard he knows the ropes."
The ropes, when I was in Jerusalem before the war, were principally used for hanging people at the Jaffa Gate, after they had been well beaten on the soles of their feet to compel them to tell where their money was hidden. The Turks entirely understood the arts of suppression and extortion, which they defined as government. The British, on the other hand, subject their normal human impulse to be greedy, and their educated craving to be gentlemanly white man's burden-bearers, to a process of compromise. Perhaps that isn't government. But it works. They even carry compromise to the point of not hanging even their critics if they can possibly avoid doing it. They had not yet, but they were about to receive a brand-new mandate from a brand-new League of Nations, awkwardly qualified by Mr. Balfour's post-Armistice promise to the Zionists to give the country to the Jews, and by a war-time promise, in which the French had joined, to create an Arab kingdom for the Arabs.
So there was lots of compromising being done, and hell to pay, with no one paying, except, of course, the guests in the hotels, at New York prices. The Zionist Jews were arriving in droves. The Arabs, who owned most of the land, were threatening to cut all the Jews' throats as soon as they could first get all their money. Feisal, a descendant of the Prophet, who had fought gloriously against the Turks, was romantically getting ready in Damascus to be crowned King of Syria. The French, who pride themselves on being realistic, were getting ready to go after Feisal with bayonets and poison-gas, as they eventually did.
In Jerusalem the Bolsheviks, astonishingly credulous of "secret" news from Moscow, and skeptical of every one's opinion but their own, were bolsheviking Marxian Utopia beneath a screen of such arrogant innocence that even the streetcorner police constables suspected them. And Mustapha Kemal, in Anatolia, was rumoured to be preparing a holy war. It was known as a Ghazi in those days. He had not yet scrapped religion. He was contemplating, so said rumour, a genuine old-fashioned moslem jihad, with modern trimmings.
A few enthusiasts astonishingly still laboured for an American mandate. At the Holy Sepulchre a British soldier stood on guard with bayonet and bullets to prevent the priests of rival creeds from murdering one another. The sun shone and so did the stars. General Bols reopened Pontius Pilate's water-works. The learned monks in convents argued about facts and theories denied by archaeologists. Old-fashioned Jews wailed at the Wailing Wall. Tommy Atkins blasphemously dug corpses of donkeys and dogs from the Citadel moat.
I arrived in the midst of all that, and spent a couple of months trying to make head or tail of it, and wondering, if that was peace, what war is? They say that wherever a man was ever slain in Palestine a flower grows. So one gets a fair idea of the country's mass-experience without much difficulty. For three months of the year, from end to end, the whole landscape is carpeted with flowers so close together that, except where beasts and men have trodden winding tracks, one can hardly walk without crushing an anemone or wild chrysanthemum. There are more battle-fields in that small land than all Europe can show. There are streams everywhere that historians assert repeatedly "ran blood for days."
Five thousand years of bloody terrorism, intermingling of races, piety, plunder, politics and pilgrims, have produced a self- consciousness as concentrated as liquid poison-gas. The laughter is sarcastic, the humour sardonic, and the credulity beyond analysis. For instance, when I got there, I heard the British being accused of "imperialistic savagery" because they had removed the leprous beggars from the streets into a clean place where they could receive medical treatment.
It was difficult to find one line of observation. Whatever anybody told you, was reversed entirely by the next man. The throat-distorting obligation to study Arabic called for rather intimate association with educated Arabs, whose main obsession was fear of the Zionist Jews. The things they said against the Jews turned me pro-Zionist. So I