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- The Eye of Zeitoon - 1/59 -


THE EYE OF ZEITOON By Talbot Mundy

Author of Rung Ho, King--of the Khyber Rifles, Hira Singh, The Ivory Trail, etc.

CONTENTS

Chapter Page

I Parthians, Medes and Elamites .............................. 1 II "How did sunshine get into the garden? By whose leave came the wind?" .............................................. 21 III "Sahib, there is always work for real soldiers!" ......... 40 IV "We are the robbers, effendi!" ............................ 52 V "Effendi, that is the heart of Armenia burning!" ........... 74 VI "Passing the buck to Allah!" ............................. 91 VII "We hold you to your word!" .............................. 118 VIII "I go with that man!" ................................... 128 IX "And you left your friend to help me?" ................... 142 X "When I fire this pistol--" ................................ 163 XI "That man's dose is death, and he dies unshriven!" ....... 176 XII "America's way with a woman is beyond belief!" .......... 195 XIII " 'Take your squadron and go find him, Rustum Khan!' And I, sahib, obeyed my lord bahadur's orders." ......... 211 XIV "Rajput, I shall hang you if you make more trouble!"...... 229 XV "Scenery to burst the heart!" ............................. 243 XVI "What care I for my belly, sahib, if you break my heart?" 257 XVII "I knew what to expect of the women!" .................. 277 XVIII "Per terram et aquam" .................................. 290 XIX "Such drilling as they have had--such little drilling!" .. 303 XX "So few against so many! I see death, and I am not sorry!" 316 XXI "Those who survive this night shall have brave memories!". 333 XXII "God go with you to the States, effendim!" .............. 349

Chapter One Parthians, Medes and Elamites

SALVETE!

Oh ye, who tread the trodden path And keep the narrow law In famished faith that Judgment Day Shall blast your sluggard mists away And show what Moses saw! Oh thralls of subdivided time, Hours Measureless I sing That own swift ways to wider scenes, New-plucked from heights where Vision preens A white, unwearied wing! No creed I preach to bend dull thought To see what I shall show, Nor can ye buy with treasured gold The key to these Hours that unfold New tales no teachers know. Ye'll need no leave o' the laws o' man, For Vision's wings are free; The swift Unmeasured Hours are kind And ye shall leave all cares behind If ye will come with me! In vain shall lumps of fashioned stuff Imprison you about; In vain let pundits preach the flesh And feebling limits that enmesh Your goings in and out, I know the way the zephyrs took Who brought the breath of spring, I guide to shores of regions blest Where white, uncaught Ideas nest And Thought is strong o' wing! Within the Hours that I unlock All customed fetters fall; The chains of drudgery release; Set limits fade; horizons cease For you who hear the call No trumpet note--no roll of drums, But quiet, sure and sweet-- The self-same voice that summoned Drake, The whisper for whose siren sake They manned the Devon fleet, More lawless than the gray gull's wait, More boundless than the sea, More subtle than the softest wind!

* * * * * *

Oh, ye shall burst the ties that bind If ye will come with me!

It is written with authority of Tarsus that once it was no mean city, but that is a tale of nineteen centuries ago. The Turko-Italian War had not been fought when Fred Oakes took the fever of the place, although the stage was pretty nearly set for it and most of the leading actors were waiting for their cue. No more history was needed than to grind away forgotten loveliness.

Fred's is the least sweet temper in the universe when the ague grips and shakes him, and he knows history as some men know the Bible--by fathoms; he cursed the place conqueror by conqueror, maligning them for their city's sake, and if Sennacherib, who built the first foundations, and if Anthony and Cleopatra, Philip of Macedon, Timour-i-lang, Mahmoud, Ibrahim and all the rest of them could have come and listened by his bedside they would have heard more personal scandal of themselves than ever their contemporary chroniclers dared reveal.

All this because he insisted on ignoring the history he knew so well, and could not be held from bathing in the River Cydnus. Whatever their indifference to custom, Anthony and Cleopatra knew better than do that. Alexander the Great, on the other hand, flouted tradition and set Fred the example, very nearly dying of the ague for his pains, for those are treacherous, chill waters.

Fred, being a sober man and unlike Alexander of Macedon in several other ways, throws off fever marvelously, but takes it as some persons do religion, very severely for a little while. So we carried him and laid him on a nice white cot in a nice clean room with two beds in it in the American mission, where they dispense more than royal hospitality to utter strangers. Will Yerkes had friends there but that made no difference; Fred was quinined, low-dieted, bathed, comforted and reproved for swearing by a college-educated nurse, who liked his principles and disapproved of his professions just as frankly as if he came from her hometown. (Her name was Van-something-or-other, and you could lean against the Boston accent--just a little lonely-sounding, but a very rock of gentle independence, all that long way from home!)

Meanwhile, we rested. That is to say that, after accepting as much mission hospitality as was decent, considering that every member of the staff worked fourteen hours a day and had to make up for attention shown to us by long hours bitten out of night, we loafed about the city. And Satan still finds mischief.

We called on Fred in the beginning twice a day, morning and evening, but cut the visits short for the same reason that Monty did not go at all: when the fever is on him Fred's feelings toward his own sex are simply blunt bellicose. When they put another patient in the spare bed in his room we copied Monty, arguing that one male at a time for him to quarrel with was plenty.

Monty, being Earl of Montdidier and Kirkudbrightshire, and a privy councilor, was welcome at the consulate at Mersina, twenty miles away. The consul, like Monty, was an army officer, who played good chess, so that that was no place, either, for Will Yerkes and me. Will prefers dime novels, if he must sit still, and there was none. And besides, he was never what you could call really sedative.

He and I took up quarters at the European hotel--no sweet abiding-place. There were beetles in the Denmark butter that they pushed on to the filthy table-cloth in its original one-pound tin; and there was a Turkish officer in riding pants and red morocco slippers, back from the Yemen with two or three incurable complaints. He talked out-of-date Turkish politics in bad French and eked out his ignorance of table manners with instinctive racial habit.

To avoid him between meals Will and I set out to look at the historic sights, and exhausted them all, real and alleged, in less than half a day (for in addition to a lust for ready-cut building stone the Turks have never cherished monuments that might accentuate their own decadence). After that we fossicked in the manner of prospectors that we are by preference, if not always by trade, eschewing polite society and hunting in the impolite, amusing places where most of the facts have teeth, sharp and ready to snap, but visible.

We found a khan at last on the outskirts of the city, almost in sight of the railway line, that well agreed with our frame of mind. It was none of the newfangled, underdone affairs that ape hotels, with Greek managers and as many different prices for one service as there are grades of credulity, but a genuine two-hundred-year-old Turkish place, run by a Turk, and named Yeni Khan (which means the new rest house) in proof that once the world was younger. The man who directed us to the place called it a kahveh; but that means a place for donkeys and foot-passengers, and when we spoke of it as kahveh to the obadashi-- the elderly youth who corresponds to porter, bell-boy and chambermaid in one--he was visibly annoyed.

Truly the place was a khan--a great bleak building of four high outer walls, surrounding a courtyard that was a yard deep with the dung of countless camels, horses, bullocks, asses; crowded with arabas, the four-wheeled vehicles of all the Near East, and smelly with centuries of human journeys' ends.

Khans provide nothing except room, heat and water (and the heat costs extra); there is no sanitation for any one at any price; every guest dumps all his discarded rubbish over the balcony rail into the courtyard, to be trodden and wheeled under foot and help build the aroma. But the guests provide a picture without price that with the very first glimpse drives discomfort out of mind.

In that place there were Parthians, Medes and Elamites, and all the rest of the list. There was even a Chinaman. Two Hindus were unpacking bundles out of a creaking araba, watched scornfully by an unmistakable Pathan. A fat swarthy-faced Greek in black frock coat and trousers,


The Eye of Zeitoon - 1/59

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