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The Book of Missionary Heroes
by Basil Mathews
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She, too, pressed them to stop their fighting. Word went back to the warriors on both sides, who became wildly excited. Some agreed, others stormed and raged till they were in a frenzy. Would they fight even over her body? Furious warriors came moving up from both sides. But by arguing and appealing at last she persuaded the warlike tribe to accept a fine.

The Promise of Peace

The town whose drunken youth had wounded the enemy chief at once paid a part of the fine. They used no money. So the fine was paid in casks and bottles of trade gin. Mary Slessor trembled. For as the boxes of gin bottles were brought forward the warriors pranced with excitement and made ready to get drunk. She knew that this would make them fight after all. What could she do? The roar of voices rose. She could not make her own voice heard. A daring idea flashed into her mind. According to the law of these Egbo people, clothes thrown over anything give it the protection of your body. She snatched off her skirt and all the clothing she could spare and spread them over the gin. She seized the one glass that the tribe had, and doled out one portion only to each chief to test whether the bottles indeed contained spirit. At last they grew quieter and she spoke to them.

"I am going," she said, "across the Great Waters to my home, and I shall be away many moons. Promise me here, on both sides, that you will not go to war with one another while I am away."

"We promise," they said. They gathered around her and she told them the story of Jesus Christ in whose name she had come to them.

"Now," she said, "go to your rest and fight no more." And the tribes kept their promise to her,—so that when she returned they could say, "It is peace."

* * * * *

For nearly forty years she worked on in Calabar, stricken scores of times with fever. She rescued her hundreds of twin babies thrown out to die in the forest, stopped wars and ordeal by poison, made peace, healed the sick.

At last, too weak to walk, she was wheeled through the forests and along the valleys by some of her "twins" now grown to strong children, and died there—the conquering Queen of Calabar, who ruled in the hearts of even the fiercest cannibals through the power of the Faith, by which out of weakness she was made strong.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 57: The African uses the word "Ma" as mother, (a) to name a woman after her eldest son, e.g. Mrs. Livingstone was called Ma-Robert; and (b) as in this case, for a woman whom they respect.]



Book Four: HEROINES AND HEROES OF PLATEAU AND DESERT



CHAPTER XXIII

SONS OF THE DESERT

Abdallah and Sabat

(Time of Incidents, about 1800-1810)

Two Arab Wanderers

One day, more than a hundred years ago, two young Arabs, Abdallah and Sabat, rode on their camels toward a city that was hidden among the tawny hills standing upon the skyline.

The sun was beginning to drop toward the edge of the desert away in the direction of the Red Sea. The shadows of the long swinging legs of the camels wavered in grotesque lines on the sand. There was a look of excited expectation in the eyes of the young Arabs; for, by sunset, their feet would walk the city of their dreams.

They were bound for Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed, the Holy City toward which every man of the Mohammedan world turns five times a day as he cries, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah." To have worshipped in Mecca before the sacred Kaaba and to have kissed the black stone in its wall—this was to make Paradise certain for them both. Having done that pilgrimage these two Arabs, Sabat and Abdallah, would be able to take the proud title of "Haji" which would proclaim to every man that they had been to Mecca—the Holy of Holies.

So they pressed on by the valley between the hills till they saw before them the roofs and the minarets of Mecca itself. As darkness rushed across the desert and the stars came out, the tired camels knelt in the courtyard of the Khan,[58] and Sabat and Abdallah alighted and stretched their cramped legs, and took their sleep.

These young men, Sabat and Abdallah, the sons of notable Arab chiefs, had struck up a great friendship. Now, each in company with his chum, they were together at the end of the greatest journey that an Arab can take.

As the first faint flush of pink touched the mountain beyond Mecca, the cry came from the minaret: "Come to prayer. Prayer is better than sleep. There is no God but Allah."

Sabat and Abdallah were already up and out, and that day they said the Mohammedan prayer before the Kaaba itself with other pilgrims who had come from many lands—from Egypt and Abyssinia, from Constantinople and Damascus, Baghdad and Bokhara, from the defiles of the Khyber Pass, from the streets of Delhi and the harbour of Zanzibar.

We do not know what Abdallah looked like. He was probably like most young Arab chieftains, a tall, sinewy man—brown-faced, dark-eyed, with hair and a short-cropped beard that were between brown and black.

His friend Sabat was, however, so striking that even in that great crowd of many pilgrims people would turn to look at him. They would turn round, for one reason, because of Sabat's voice. Even when he was just talking to his friend his voice sounded like a roar; when he got excited and in a passion (as he very often did) it rolled like thunder and was louder than most men's shouting. As he spoke his large white teeth gleamed in his wide mouth. His brown face and black arched eyebrows were a dark setting for round eyes that flashed as he spoke. His black beard flowed over his tawny throat and neck. Gold earrings swung with his agitation and a gold chain gleamed round his neck. He wore a bright silk jacket with long sleeves, and long, loose-flowing trousers and richly embroidered shoes with turned-up toes. From a girdle round his waist hung a dagger whose handle and hilt flashed with jewels.

Abdallah and Sabat were better educated than most Arabs, for they could both read. But they were not men who could stay in one place and read and think in quiet. When they had finished their worship at Mecca, they determined to ride far away across the deserts eastward, even to Kabul in the mountains of Afghanistan. So they rode, first northward up the great camel-route toward Damascus, and then eastward. In spite of robbers and hungry jackals, through mountain gorges, over streams, across the Syrian desert from oasis to oasis, and then across the Euphrates and the Tigris they went, till they had climbed rung by rung the mountain ranges that hold up the great plateau of Persia.

At last they broke in upon the rocky valleys of Afghanistan and came to the gateway of India—to Kabul. They presented themselves to Zeman Shah, the ruler of Afghanistan, and he was so taken with Abdallah's capacity that he asked him to be one of his officers in the court. So Abdallah stayed in Kabul. But the restless, fiery Sabat turned the face of his camel westward and rode back into Persia to the lovely city of Bokhara.

Abdallah the Daring

In Kabul there was an Armenian whose name we do not know: but he owned a book printed in Arabic, a book that Abdallah could read. The Armenian lent it to him. There were hardly any books in Arabic, so Abdallah took this book and read it eagerly. As he read, he thought that he had never in all his life heard of such wonderful things, and he could feel in his very bones that they were true. He read four short true stories in this book: they were what we call the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As he read, Abdallah saw in the stories Someone who was infinitely greater than Mohammed—One who was so strong and gentle that He was always helping children and women and people who were ill; so good that He always lived the very life that God willed; and so brave that He died rather than give in to evil men—our Lord Jesus Christ.

"I worship Him," said Abdallah in his heart. Then he did a very daring thing. He knew that if he turned Christian it would be the duty of Mohammedans to kill him. Why not keep quiet and say nothing about his change of heart? But he could not. He decided that he must come out in the open and confess the new Captain of his life. He was baptized a Christian.

The Moslems were furious. To save his life Abdallah fled on his camel westward to Bokhara. But the news that he had become a Christian flew even faster than he himself rode. As he went along the streets of Bokhara he saw his friend Sabat coming toward him. As a friend, Sabat desired to save Abdallah; but as a Moslem, the cruel law of Mohammed said that he must have him put to death. And Sabat was a fiery, hot-tempered Moslem.

"I had no pity," Sabat told his friends afterward. "I delivered him up to Morad Shah, the King."

So Abdallah was bound and carried before the Moslem judges. His friend Sabat stood by watching, just as Saul had stood watching them stone Stephen nearly eighteen centuries earlier.

"You shall be given your life and be set free," they said, "if you will spit upon the Cross and renounce Christ and say, 'There is no God but Allah.'"

"I refuse," said Abdallah.

A sword was brought forward and unsheathed. Abdallah's arm was stretched out: the sword was lifted—it flashed—and Abdallah's hand, cut clean off, fell on the ground, while the blood spurted from his arm.

"Your life will still be given you if you renounce Christ and proclaim Allah and Mohammed as His prophet."

This is how Sabat himself described what happened next. "Abdallah made no answer, but looked up steadfastly toward heaven, like Stephen, the first martyr, his eyes streaming with tears. He looked at me," said Sabat, "but it was with the countenance of forgiveness."

Abdallah's other arm was stretched out, again the sword flashed and fell. His other hand dropped to the ground. He stood there bleeding and handless. He bowed his head and his neck was bared to the sword. Again the blade flashed. He was beheaded, and Sabat—Sabat who had ridden a thousand miles with his friend and had faced with him the blistering sun of the desert and the snow-blizzard of the mountain—saw Abdallah's head lie there on the ground and the dead body carried away.

Abdallah had died because he was faithful to Jesus Christ and because Sabat had obeyed the law of Mohammed.

The Old Sabat and the New

The news spread through Bokhara like a forest fire. They could hardly believe that a man would die for the Christian faith like that. As Sabat told his friends afterward, "All Bokhara seemed to say, 'What new thing is this?'"

But Sabat was in agony of mind. Nothing that he could do would take away from his eyes the vision of his friend's face as Abdallah had looked at him when his hands were being cut off. He plunged out on to the camel tracks of Asia to try to forget. He wandered far and he wandered long, but he could not forget or find rest for his tortured mind.

At last he sailed away on the seas and landed on the coast of India at Madras. The British East India Company then ruled in India, and they gave Sabat a post in the civil courts as mufti, i.e. as an expounder of the law of Mohammed. He spent most of his time in a coast town north of Madras, called Vizagapatam.[59] A friend handed to him there a little book in his native language—Arabic. It was another translation of those stories that Abdallah had read in Kabul—it was the New Testament.[60]

Sabat sat reading this New Book. He then took up the book of Mohammed's law—the Koran—which it was his daily work to explain. He compared the two. "The truth came"—as he himself said—"like a flood of light." He too began to worship Jesus Christ, whose life he had read now for the first time in the New Testament. Sabat decided that he must follow in Abdallah's footsteps. He became a Christian.[61] He was then twenty-seven years of age.

The Brother's Dagger

In the world of the East news travels like magic by Arab dhow (sailing ship) and camel caravan. Very quickly the news was in Arabia that Sabat had renounced Mohammed and become a Christian. At once Sabat's brother rose, girded on his dagger, left the tents of his tribe, mounted his camel and coursed across Arabia to a port. There he took ship for Madras. Landing, he disguised himself as an Indian and went up to Vizagapatam to the house where his brother Sabat was living.

Sabat saw this Indian, as he appeared to be, standing before him. He suspected nothing. Suddenly the disguised brother put his hand within his robe, seized his dagger, and leaping at Sabat made a fierce blow at him. Sabat flung out his arm. He spoilt his brother's aim, but he was too late to save himself. He was wounded, but not killed. The brother threw off his disguise, and Sabat—remembering the forgiveness of Abdallah—forgave his brother, gave him many presents, and sent loving messages to his mother.

Sabat decided that he could no longer work as an expounder of Moslem law: he wanted to do work that would help to spread the Christian Faith. He went away north to Calcutta, and there he joined the great men who were working at the task of translating the Bible into different languages and printing them. This work pleased Sabat, for was it not through reading an Arabic New Testament that all his own life had been changed?

Because Sabat knew Persian as well as Arabic he was sent to help a very clever young chaplain from England named Henry Martyn, who was busily at work translating the New Testament into Persian and Arabic. So Sabat went up the Ganges to Cawnpore with Henry Martyn.

Sabat's fiery temper nearly drove Martyn wild. His was a flaming Arab spirit, hot-headed and impetuous; yet he would be ready to die for the man he cared for; proud and often ignorant, yet simple—as Martyn said, "an artless child of the desert."

Sabat's knowledge of Persian was not really so good as he himself thought it was, and some of the Indian translators at Calcutta criticised his translation. At this he got furiously angry, and, like St. Peter, the fiery, impetuous apostle, he denied Jesus Christ and spoke against Christianity.

With his heart burning with rage and his great voice thundering with anger, Sabat left his friends, went aboard ship and sailed down the Bay of Bengal by the Indo-Chinese coast till he came to Penang, where he began to live as a trader.

But by this time the fire of his anger had burnt itself out. He—again like Peter—remembered his denial of his Master, and when he saw in a Penang newspaper an article saying that the famous Sabat, who had become a Christian and then become a Mohammedan again, had come to live in their city, he wrote a letter which was published in the newspaper at Penang declaring that he was now—and for good and all—a Christian.

A British officer named Colonel MacInnes was stationed at Penang. Sabat went to him. "My mind is full of great sorrow," he said, "because I denied Jesus Christ. I have not had a moment's peace since Satan made me do that bad work. I did it for revenge. I only want to do one thing with my life: to spend it in undoing this evil that has come through my denial."

Sabat left the house of the Mohammedan with whom he was living in Penang. He found an old friend of his named Johannes, an Armenian Christian merchant, who had lived in Madras in the very days when Sabat first became a Christian. Every night Johannes the Armenian and Sabat the Arab got out their Bibles, and far into the night Sabat would explain their meaning to Johannes.

The Prince from Sumatra

One day all Penang was agog with excitement because a brown Prince from Acheen, a Malay State in the island of Sumatra, had suddenly sailed into the harbour. He was in flight from his own land, where rebels had attacked him. The people of Acheen were wild and ferocious; many of them were cannibals.

"I will join you in helping to recover your throne," said Sabat to the fugitive Prince. "I am going," said Sabat to Colonel MacInnes, "to see if I can carry the message of Christianity to this fierce people."

So Sabat and the Prince, with others, went aboard a sailing ship and crossed the Strait of Malacca to Sumatra. They landed, and for long the struggle with the rebels swayed from side to side. The Prince was so pleased with Sabat that he made him his Prime Minister. But the struggle dragged on and on; there seemed to be no hope of triumph. At last Sabat decided to go back to Penang. One day he left the Prince and started off, but soldiers of the rebel-chief Syfoolalim captured him.

Great was the joy of the rebels—their powerful enemy was in their hands! They bound him, threw him into a boat, hoisted him aboard a sailing ship and clapped him in the stifling darkness of the hold. As he lay there he pierced his arm to make it bleed, and, with the blood that came out, wrote on a piece of paper that was smuggled out and sent to Penang to Colonel MacInnes.

The agonies that Sabat suffered in the gloom and filth of that ship's hold no one will ever know. We can learn from the words that he wrote in the blood from his own body that they loaded worse horrors upon him because he was a Christian. All the scene is black, but out of the darkness comes a voice that makes us feel that Sabat was faithful at the end. In his last letter to Colonel MacInnes he told how he was now ready (like his friend Abdallah) to die for the sake of that Master whom he had in his rage denied.

Then one day his cruel gaolers came to the hold where he lay, and, binding his limbs, thrust him into a sack, which they then closed. In the choking darkness of the sack he was carried on deck and dragged to the side of the ship. He heard the lapping of the waves. He felt himself lifted and then hurled out into the air, and down—down with a crash into the waters of the sea, which closed over him for ever.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 58: The inn of the Near East—a square courtyard with all the doors and windows inside, with primitive stables and bunks for the camelmen, and sometimes rooms for the well-to-do travellers.]

[Footnote 59: Pronounce Vi-zah'-ga-pat-ahm.]

[Footnote 60: The Arabic New Testament revised by Solomon Negri and sent to India by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in the middle of the eighteenth century.]

[Footnote 61: Baptized "Nathaniel" at Madras by the Rev. Dr Kerr.]



CHAPTER XXIV

A RACE AGAINST TIME

Henry Martyn

(Dates, b. 1781, d. 1812. Time of Incident 1810-12)

In the story of Sabat that was told in the previous chapter you will remember that, for a part of the time that he lived in India, he worked with an Englishman named Henry Martyn.

Sabat was almost a giant; Henry Martyn was slight and not very strong. Yet—as we shall see in the story that follows—Henry Martyn was braver and more constant than Sabat himself.

As a boy Henry, who was born and went to school in Truro, in Cornwall, in the West of England, was violently passionate, sensitive, and physically rather fragile, and at school was protected from bullies by a big boy, the son of Admiral Kempthorne.

He left school at the age of fifteen and shot and read till he was seventeen. In 1797 he became an undergraduate at St. John's College, Cambridge. He was still very passionate.

For instance, when a man was "ragging" him in the College Hall at dinner, he was so furious that he flung a knife at him, which stuck quivering in the panelling of the wall. Kempthorne, his old friend, was at Cambridge with him. They used to read the Bible together and Martyn became a real Christian and fought hard to overcome his violent temper.

He was a very clever scholar and became a Fellow of Jesus College in 1802. He at that time took orders in the Church of England. He became very keen on reading about missionary work, e.g. Carey's story of nine years' work in Periodical Accounts, and the L.M.S. Report on Vanderkemp in South Africa. "I read nothing else while it lasted," he said of the Vanderkemp report.

He was accepted as a chaplain of the East India Company. They could not sail till Admiral Nelson gave the word, because the French were waiting to capture all the British ships. Five men-of-war convoyed them when they sailed in 1805. They waited off Ireland, because the immediate invasion of England by Napoleon was threatened. On board Martyn worked hard at Hindustani, Bengali and Portuguese. He already knew Greek, Latin and Hebrew. He arrived at Madras (South India) and Calcutta and thence went to Cawnpore. It is at this point that our yarn begins.

A voice like thunder, speaking in a strange tongue, shouted across an Indian garden one night in 1809.

The new moon, looking "like a ball of ebony in an ivory cup,"—as one who was there that night said—threw a cold light over the palm trees and aloes, on the man who was speaking and on those who were seated around him at the table in the bungalow.

Beyond the garden the life of Cawnpore moved in its many streets; the shout of a donkey-driver, the shrill of a bugle from the barracks broke sharply through the muffled sounds of the city. The June wind, heavy with the waters of the Ganges which flows past Cawnpore, made the night insufferably hot. But the heat did not trouble Sabat, the wild son of the Arabian desert, who was talking—as he always did—in a roaring voice that was louder than most men's shouting. He was telling the story of Abdallah's brave death as a Christian martyr.[62]

Quietly listening to Sabat's voice—though he could not understand what he was saying—was a young Italian, Padre Julius Caesar, a monk of the order of the Jesuits. On his head was a little skull-cap, over his body a robe of fine purple satin held with a girdle of twisted silk.

Near him sat an Indian scholar—on his dark head a full turban, and about him richly-coloured robes. On the other side sat a little, thin, copper-coloured Bengali dressed in white, and a British officer in his scarlet and gold uniform, with his wife, who has told us the story of that evening.

Not one of these brightly dressed people was, however, the strongest power there. A man in black clothes was the real centre of the group. Very slight in build, not tall, clean-shaven, with a high forehead and sensitive lips, young Henry Martyn seemed a stripling beside the flaming Arab. Yet Sabat, with all his sound and fury, was no match for the swift-witted, clear-brained young Englishman. Henry Martyn was a chaplain in the army of the East India Company, which then ruled in India.

He was the only one of those who were listening to Sabat who could understand what he was saying. When Sabat had finished his story, Martyn turned, and, in his clear, musical voice translated it from the Persian into Latin mixed with Italian for Padre Julius Caesar, into Hindustani for the Indian scholar, into Bengali for the Bengal gentleman, and into English for the British officer and his wife. Martyn could also talk to Sabat himself both in Arabic and in Persian.

As Martyn listened to the rolling sentences of Sabat, the Christian Arab, he seemed to see the lands beyond India, away across the Khyber Pass, where Sabat had travelled—Mesopotamia, Arabia, Persia.

Henry Martyn knew that in all those lands the people were Mohammedans. He wanted one thing above everything else in the world: that was to give them all the chance of doing what Sabat and Abdallah had done—the chance of reading in their own languages the one book in the world that could tell them that God was a Father—the book of letters and of biographies that we call the New Testament.

The Toil of Brain

There was not in the world a copy of the New Testament in good Persian. To make one Henry Martyn slaved hard, far into the hot, sultry Indian nights, with scores of mosquitoes "pinging" round his lamp and his head, grinding at his Persian grammar, so that he could translate the life of Jesus Christ into that language.

Even while he was listening to Sabat's story in the bungalow at Cawnpore, Martyn knew that he was so ill that he could not live for many years more. The doctor said that he must leave India for a time to be in a healthier place. Should he go home to England, where all his friends were? He wanted that; but much more he wanted to go on with his work. So he asked the doctor if he might go to Persia on the way home, and he agreed.

So Martyn went down from Cawnpore to Calcutta, and in a boat down the Hoogli river to the little Arab coasting sailing ship the Hummoudi, which hoisted sail and started on its voyage round India to Bombay. Martyn read while on board the Old Testament in the original Hebrew and the New Testament in the original Greek, so that he might understand them better and make a more perfect translation into Persian. He read the Koran of Mohammed so that he could argue with the Persians about it. And he worked hard at Arabic grammar, and read books in Persian. Yet he was for ever cracking jokes with his fellow travellers, cooped up in the little ship on the hot tropical seas.

From Bombay the governor granted Martyn a passage up the Persian Gulf in the Benares, a ship in the Indian Navy that was going on a cruise to finish the exciting work of hunting down the fierce Arab pirates of the Persian Gulf. So on Lady Day, 1811, the sailors got her under weigh and tacked northward up the Gulf, till at last, on May 21, the roofs and minarets of Bushire hove in sight. Martyn, leaning over the bulwarks, could see the town jutting out into the Gulf on a spit of sand and the sea almost surrounding it. That day he set foot for the first time on the soil of Persia.

Across Persia on a Pony

Aboard ship Martyn had allowed his beard and moustache to grow. When he landed at Bushire he bought and wore the clothes of a Persian gentleman, so that he should escape from attracting everybody's notice by wearing clothes such as the people had never seen before.

No one who had seen the pale, clean-shaven clergyman in black silk coat and trousers in Cawnpore would have recognised the Henry Martyn who rode out that night on his pony with an Armenian servant, Zechariah of Isfahan, on his long one hundred and seventy mile journey from Bushire to Shiraz. He wore a conical cap of black Astrakhan fur, great baggy trousers of blue, bright red leather boots, a light tunic of chintz, and over that a flowing cloak.

They went out through the gates of Bushire on to the great plain of burning sand that stretched away for ninety miles ahead of them. They travelled by night, because the day was intolerably hot, but even at midnight the heat was over 100 degrees. It was a fine moonlight night; the stars sparkled over the plain. The bells tinkled on the mules' necks as they walked across the sand. All else was silent.

At last dawn broke. Martyn pitched his little tent under a tree, the only shelter he could get. Gradually the heat grew more and more intense. He was already so ill that it was difficult to travel.

"When the thermometer was above 112 degrees—fever heat," says Martyn, "I began to lose my strength fast. It became intolerable. I wrapped myself up in a blanket and all the covering I could get to defend myself from the air. By this means the moisture was kept a little longer upon the body. I thought I should have lost my senses. The thermometer at last stood at 126 degrees. I concluded that death was inevitable."

At last the sun went down: the thermometer crept lower: it was night and time to start again. But Martyn had not slept or eaten. He could hardly sit upright on his pony. Yet he set out and travelled on through the night.

Next morning he had a little shelter of leaves and branches made, and an Arab poured water on the leaves and on Martyn all day to try to keep some of the frightful heat from him. But even then the heat almost slew him. So they marched on through another night and then camped under a grove of date palms.

"I threw myself on the burning ground and slept," Martyn wrote. "When the tent came up I awoke in a burning fever. All day I had recourse to the wet towel, which kept me alive, but would allow of no sleep."

At nine that night they struck camp. The ground threw up the heat that it had taken from the sun during the day. So frightfully hot was the air that even at midnight Martyn could not travel without a wet towel round his face and neck.

As the night drew on the plain grew rougher: then it began to rise to the foothills and mountains. At last the pony and mules were clambering up rough steep paths so wild that there was (as Martyn said) "nothing to mark the road but the rocks being a little more worn in one place than in another." Suddenly in the darkness the pony stopped; dimly through the gloom Martyn could see that they were on the edge of a tremendous precipice. A single step more would have plunged him over, to be smashed on the rocks hundreds of feet below. Martyn did not move or try to guide the beast: he knew that the pony himself was the safest guide. In a minute or two the animal moved, and step by step clambered carefully up the rock-strewn mountain-side.

At last they came out on the mountain top, but only to find that they were on the edge of a flat high plain—a tableland. The air was pure and fresher; the mules and the travellers revived. Martyn's pony began to trot briskly along. So, as dawn came up, they came in sight of a great courtyard built by the king of that country to refresh pilgrims.

Through night after night they tramped, across plateau and mountain range, till they climbed the third range, and then plunged by a winding rocky path into a wide valley where, at a great town called Kazrun, in a garden of cypress trees was a summer-house.

Martyn lay down on the floor but could not sleep, though he was horribly weary. "There seemed," he said, "to be fire within my head, my skin like a cinder." His heart beat like a hammer.

They went on climbing another range of mountains, first tormented by mosquitoes, then frozen with cold; Martyn was so overwhelmed with sleep that he could not sit on his pony and had to hurry ahead to keep awake and then sit down with his back against a rock where he fell asleep in a second, and had to be shaken to wake up when Zechariah, the Armenian mule driver, came up to where he was.

They had at last climbed the four mountain rungs of the ladder to Persia, and came out on June 11th, 1811, on the great plain where the city of Shiraz stands. Here he found the host Jaffir Ali Khan, to whom he carried his letters of introduction. Martyn in his Persian dress, seated on the ground, was feasted with curries and rice, sweets cooled with snow and perfumed with rose water, and coffee.

Ali Khan had a lovely garden of orange trees, and in the garden Martyn sat. Ill as he was, he worked day in and day out to translate the life of Jesus Christ in the New Testament from the Greek language into pure and simple Persian. The kind host put up a tent for Martyn in the garden, close to some beautiful vines, from which hung lovely bunches of purple grapes. By the side of his tent ran a clear stream of running water. All the evening nightingales sang sweetly and mournfully.

As he sat there at his work, men came hundreds of miles to talk with this holy man, as they felt him to be. Moslems—they yet travelled even from Baghdad and Bosra and Isfahan to hear this "infidel" speak of Jesus Christ, and to argue as to which was the true religion. Prince Abbas Mirza invited him to come to speak with him; and as Martyn entered the Prince's courtyard a hundred fountains began to send up jets of water in his honour.

At last they came to him in such numbers that Martyn was obliged to say to many of them that he could not see them. He hated sending them away. What was it forced him to do so?

The Race against Time

It was because he was running a race against time. He knew that he could not live very long, because the disease that had smitten his lungs was gaining ground every day. And the thing that he had come to Persia for—the object that had made him face the long voyage, the frightful heat and the freezing cold of the journey, the life thousands of miles from his home in Cornwall—was that he might finish such a translation of the New Testament into Persian that men should love to read years and years after he had died.

So each day Martyn finished another page or two of the book, written in lovely Persian letters. He began the work within a week of reaching Shiraz, and in seven months (February, 1812) it was finished. Three more months were spent in writing out very beautiful copies of the whole of the New Testament in this new translation, to be presented to the Shah of Persia and to the heir to the throne, Prince Abbas Mirza.

Then he started away on a journey right across Persia to find the Shah and Prince so that he might give his precious books to them. On the way he fell ill with great fever; he was so weak and giddy that he could not stand. One night his head ached so that it almost drove him mad; he shook all over with fever; then a great sweat broke out. He was almost unconscious with weakness, but at midnight when the call came to start he mounted his horse and, as he says, "set out, rather dead than alive." So he pressed on in great weakness till he reached Tabriz, and there met the British Ambassador.

Martyn was rejoiced, and felt that all his pains were repaid when Sir Gore Ouseley said that he himself would present the Sacred Book to the Shah and the Prince. When the day came to give the book to Prince Abbas, poor Henry Martyn was so weak that he could not rise from his bed. Before the other copy could be presented to the Shah, Martyn had died. This is how it came about.

The Last Trail

His great work was done. The New Testament was finished. He sent a copy to the printers in India. He could now go home to England and try to get well again. He started out on horseback with two Armenian servants and a Turkish guide. He was making along the old track that has been the road from Asia to Europe for thousands of years. His plan was to travel across Persia, through Armenia and over the Black Sea to Constantinople, and so back to England.

For forty-five days he moved on, often going as much as ninety miles, and generally as much as sixty in a day. He slept in filthy inns where fleas and lice abounded and mosquitoes tormented him. Horses, cows, buffaloes and sheep would pass through his sleeping-room, and the stench of the stables nearly poisoned him. Yet he was so ill that often he could hardly keep his seat on his horse.

He travelled through deep ravines and over high mountain passes and across vast plains. His head ached till he felt it would split; he could not eat; fever came on. He shook with ague. Yet his remorseless Turkish guide, Hassan, dragged him along, because he wanted to get the journey over and go back home.

At last one day Martyn got rest on damp ground in a hovel, his eyes and forehead feeling as though a great fire burnt in them. "I was almost frantic," he wrote. Martyn was, in fact, dying; yet Hassan compelled him to ride a hundred and seventy miles of mountain track to Tokat. Here, on October 6th, 1812, he wrote in his journal:

"No horses to be had, I had an unexpected repose. I sat in the orchard and thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God—in solitude my Company, my Friend, my Comforter."

It was the last word he was ever to write.

Alone, without a human friend by him, he fell asleep. But the book that he had written with his life-blood, the Persian New Testament, was printed, and has told thousands of Persians in far places, where no Christian man has penetrated, that story of the love of God that is shown in Jesus Christ.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 62: See Chapter XXIII.]



CHAPTER XXV

THE MOSES OF THE ASSYRIANS

William Ambrose Shedd

(1865-1918)

I

A dark-haired American with black, penetrating eyes that looked you steadily in the face, and sparkled with light when he laughed, sat on a chair in a hall in 1918 in the ancient city of Urumia in the land of Assyria where Persia and Turkey meet.

His face was as brown with the sunshine of this eastern land as were the wrinkled faces of the turbaned Assyrian village men who stood before him. For he was born out here in Persia on Mount Seir.[63] And he had lived here as a boy and a man, save for the time when his splendid American father had sent him to Marietta, Ohio, for some of his schooling, and to Princeton for his final training. His dark brown moustache and short beard covered a firm mouth and a strong chin. His vigorous expression and his strongly Roman nose added to the commanding effect of his presence.

A haunting terror had driven these ragged village people into the city of Urumia, to ask help of this wonderful American leader whom they almost worshipped because he was so strong and just and good.

For the bloodthirsty Turks and the even more cruel and wilder Kurds of the mountains were marching on the land. The Great War was raging across the world and even the hidden peoples of this distant mountain land were swept into its terrible flames.

For Urumia city lies to the west of the southern end of the extremely salt lake of the same name. It is about 150 miles west from the Caspian Sea and the same distance north of the site of ancient Nineveh. It stands on a small plain and in that tangle of lakes, mountains and valley-plains where the ambitions of Russia, Persia and Turkey have met, and where the Assyrians (Christians of one of the most ancient churches in the world, which in the early centuries had a chain of missions from Constantinople right across Asia to Peking), the Kurds (wild, fierce Moslems), the Persians, the Turks and the Russians struggled together.

In front of Dr. William Ambrose Shedd there stood an old man from the villages. His long grey hair and beard and his wrinkled face were agitated as he told the American his story. The old man's dress was covered with patches—an eyewitness counted thirty-seven patches—all of different colours on one side of his cloak and loose baggy trousers.

"My field in my village I cannot plough," he said, "for we have no ox. The Kurds have taken our possessions, you are our father. Grant us an ox to plough and draw for us."

Dr. Shedd saw that the old man spoke truth; he scribbled a few words on a slip of paper and the old man went out satisfied.

So for hour after hour, men and women from all the country round came to this strange missionary who had been asked by the American Government to administer relief, yes, and to be the Consul representing America itself in that great territory.

They came to him from the villages where, around the fire in the Khans at night, men still tell stories of him as one of the great hero-leaders of their race. These are the kind of stories that they tell of the courage and the gentleness of this man who—while he was a fine American scholar—yet knew the very heart of the Eastern peoples in northwestern Persia as no American has ever done in all our history.

"One day," says one old village Assyrian greybeard, "Dr. Shedd was sitting at meat in his house when his servant, Meshadi, ran into the room crying, 'The Kurds have been among our people. They have taken three girls, three Christian girls, and are carrying them off. They have just passed the gate.' The Kurds were all bristling with daggers and pistols. Dr. Shedd simply picked up the cane that he holds in his hand when he walks. He hurried out of the house with Meshadi, ran up the hill to the Kurd village that lies there, entered, said to the fierce Kurds, 'Give back those girls to us.' And they, as they looked into his face, could not resist him though they were armed and he was not. So they gave the Assyrian girls back to him and he led them down the hill to their homes."

So he also stood single-handed between Turks and five hundred Assyrians who had taken refuge in the missionary compound, and stopped the Turks from massacring the Christians.

But even as he worked in this way the tide of the great war flowed towards Urumia. The people there were mostly Assyrians with some Armenians; they were Christians. They looked southward across the mountains to the British Army there in Mesopotamia for aid.

But, as the Assyrians looked up from Urumia to the north they could already see the first Turks coming down upon the city. Thousands upon thousands of the Assyrians from the country villages crowded into the city and into the American missionary compound, till actually even in the mission school-rooms they were sleeping three deep—one lot on the floor, another lot on the seats of the desks and a third on the top of the desks themselves.

"Hold on; resist; the help of the British will come," said Dr. Shedd to the people. "Agha Petros with a thousand of our men has gone to meet the British and he will come back with them and will throw back the Turks."

The Turks and the Kurds came on from the north; many of the Armenian and Assyrian men were out across the plains to the east getting in the harvest; and no sign of succour came from the south.

II

Through the fierce hot days of July the people held on because Dr. Shedd said that they must; but at last on the afternoon of July 30th there came over all the people a strange irresistible panic. They gathered all their goods together and piled them in wagons—food, clothes, saucepans, jewelry, gold, silver, babies, old women, mothers,—all were huddled and jumbled together.

The wagons creaked, the oxen lurched down the roads to the south, the little children cried with hunger and fright, the boys trudged along rather excited at the adventure yet rather scared at the awful hullabaloo and the strange feeling of horror of the cruel Kurdish horsemen and of the crafty Turk.

Dr. Shedd made one last vain effort to persuade the people to hold on to their city; but it was impossible—they had gone, as it seemed, mad with fright.

He and his wife went to bed that night but not to sleep. At two o'clock the telephone bell rang.

"The Turks and Kurds are advancing; all the people are leaving," came the message.

"It is impossible to hold on any longer," said Dr. Shedd to his wife. "I will go and tell all in the compound. You get things ready."

Mrs. Shedd got up and began to collect what was needed: she packed up food (bread, tea, sugar, nuts, raisins and so on), a frying pan, a kettle, a saucepan, water jars, saddles, extra horse-shoes, ropes, lanterns, a spade and bedding. By 7.30 the baggage wagon and two Red Cross carts were ready. Dr. Shedd and Mrs. Shedd got up into the wagon; the driver cried to his horses and they started.

As they went out of the city on the south the Turks and Kurds came raging in on the north. Within two hours the Turks and Kurds were crashing into houses and burning them to the ground; but most of the people had gone—for Dr. Shedd was practically the last to leave Urumia.

Ahead of them were the Armenians and Syrians in flight. They came to a little bridge—a mass of sticks with mud thrown over them. Here, and at every bridge, pandemonium reigned. This is how Mrs. Shedd describes the scene:

"The jam at every bridge was indescribable confusion. Every kind of vehicle that you could imagine—ox carts, buffalo wagons, Red Cross carts, troikas, foorgans like prairie schooners, hay-wagons, Russian phaetons and many others invented and fitted up for the occasion. The animals—donkeys, horses, buffaloes, oxen, cows with their calves, mules and herds of thousands of sheep and goats."

All through the day they moved on, at the end of the procession—Dr. Shedd, planning out how he could best get his people safely away from the Turks who—he knew—would soon come pursuing them down the plain to the mountains. Night fell and they were in a long line of wagons close to a narrow bridge built by the Russians across the Baranduz river. They had come some eighteen miles from Urumia.

So they lay down in the wagons to try to sleep. But they could not and at two o'clock in the night they moved on, crossed the river and drove on for hour after hour toward the mountains that rose in a wall before them.

The poor horses were not strong so the wagon had to be lightened. Assyrian boys took loads on their heads and trudged up the rocky mountain road while the wagon jolted and groaned as it bumped its way along. The trail of the mountain pass was littered with samovars (tea urns), copper kettles, carpets, bedding; and here and there the body of someone who had died on the way. At the very top of the pass lay a baby thrown aside there and just drawing its last breath.

So for two days they jolted on hardly getting an hour's sleep. At last at midday on the third day they left Hadarabad at the south end of Lake Urumia. Two hours later the sound of booming guns was heard. A horseman galloped up.

"The Turks are in Hadarabad," he said. "They are attacking the rear of the procession."

"It seemed," said Mrs. Shedd, "as if at any moment we should hear the screams of those behind, as the enemy fell upon them."

The wagons hurried on to the next town called Memetyar and there Dr. Shedd waited, lightening his own wagons by throwing away everything that they could spare—oil, potatoes, charcoal, every box except his Bible and a small volume of Browning's Poems.

Then they started again, along a road that was littered with the discarded goods of the people. Then they saw on the road-side a little baby girl that had been left by her parents. She was not a year old and sat there all alone in a desolate spot. Left to die. Dr. Shedd looked at his wife and she at him.

He pulled up the horse and jumped down, picked up the baby and put her in the wagon. They went along till they came to a large village. Here they found a Kurdish mother.

"Take care of this little girl till we come back," said Dr. Shedd, "and here is some money for looking after her. We will give you more when we come back if she is well looked after."

III

Suddenly cannon were fired from the mountains and the people in panic threw away their goods and hurried in a frenzy of fear down the mountain passes. They passed on to the plain, and then as they were in a village guns began to be fired. Three hundred Turks and Persians were attacking under Majdi—Sultana of Urumia. Dr. Shedd, riding his horse, gathered together some Armenian and Assyrian men with guns and stayed with them to help them hold back the enemy, while the women drove on. He was a good target sitting up there on his horse; but without thinking of his own danger he kept his men at it. For he felt like a shepherd with a great flock of fleeing sheep whom it was his duty to protect.

Panic seized the people. Strong men left their old mothers to die. Mothers dropped their babies and ran.

"One of my school-girls," Mrs. Shedd says, "afterward told me how she had left her baby on the bank and waded with an older child through the river when the enemy were coming after them. She couldn't carry both. The memory of her deserted baby is always with her."

The line of the refugees stretched for miles along the road. The enemy fired from behind boulders on the mountain sides. The Armenians and Syrians fired back from the road or ran up the mountains to chase them. It was hopeless to think of driving the enemy off but Dr. Shedd's object was to hold them off till help came. So he went up and down on his horse encouraging the men; while the bullets whizzed over the wagons.

"I feared," said Mrs. Shedd, "that the enemy might get the better of us and we should have to leave the carts and run for our lives. While they were plundering the wagons and the loads we would get away. I looked about me to see what we might carry. There was little May, six years old (the daughter of one of their Syrian teachers) who had unconcernedly curled herself up on the seat for a nap. I wrapped a little bread in a cloth, put my glasses in my pocket, and took the bag of money so that I should be ready on a moment's notice for Dr. Shedd if they should swoop down upon us."

All day long the firing went on from the mountain side as the tired horses pulled along the rough trail. The sun began to sink toward the horizon. What would happen in the darkness?

Then they saw ahead of them coming from the south a group of men in khaki. They were nine British Tommies with three Lewis guns under Captain Savage. They had come ahead from the main body that had moved up from Baghdad in order to defend the rear of the great procession. The little company of soldiers passed on and the procession moved forward. That tiny company of nine British Tommies ten miles farther on was attacked by hundreds of Turks. All day they held the road, like Horatius on the bridge, till at night the Cavalry came up and drove off the enemy, and at last the Shedds reached the British camp.

"Why are you right at the tail end of the retreat?" asked one of the Syrian young men who had hurried forward into safety.

"I would much rather be there," said Dr. Shedd with some scorn in his voice, "than like you, leave the unarmed, the sick, the weak, the women and the children to the mercy of the enemy."

He was rejoiced that the British had come.

"There was," said Mrs. Shedd, "a ring in his voice, a light in his eyes, a buoyancy in his step that I had not seen for months."

He had shepherded his thousands and thousands of boys and girls, and men and women through the mountains into the protection of the British squadron of troops.

IV

Later that day Dr. Shedd began to feel the frightful heat of the August day so exhausting that he had to lie down in the cart, which had a canvas cover open at both ends and was therefore much cooler than a tent. He got more and more feverish. So Mrs. Shedd got the Assyrian boys to take out the baggage and she made up a bed for him on the floor of the cart.

The English doctor was out with the cavalry who were holding back and dispersing the Turkish force.

Then a British officer came and said: "We are moving the camp forward under the protection of the mountains."

It was late afternoon. The cart moved forward into the gathering darkness. Mrs. Shedd crouched beside her husband on the floor of the cart attending to him, expecting the outriders to tell her when they came to the British Camp.

For hours the cart rolled and jolted over the rough mountain roads. At last it stopped, it was so dark they could not see the road. They were in a gully and could not go forward.

"Where is the British camp?" asked Mrs. Shedd.

"We passed it miles back on the road," was the reply.

It was a terrible blow: the doctor, the medicines, the comfort, the nursing that would have helped Dr. Shedd were all miles away and he was so ill that it was impossible to drive him back over that rough mountain track in the inky darkness of the night.

There was nothing to do but just stay where they were, send a messenger to the camp for the doctor, and wait for the morning.

"Only a few drops of oil were left in the lantern," Mrs. Shedd tells us, "but I lighted it and looked at Mr. Shedd. I could see that he was very sick indeed and asked two of the men to go back for the doctor. It was midnight before the doctor reached us.

"The men," Mrs. Shedd continues, "set fire to a deserted cart left by the refugees and this furnished fire and light all night. They arranged for guards in turn and lay down to rest on the roadside. Hour after hour I crouched in the cart beside my husband massaging his limbs when cramps attacked him, giving him water frequently, for while he was very cold to the touch, he seemed feverish. We heated the hot water bottle for his feet, and made coffee for him at the blaze; we had no other nourishment. He got weaker and weaker, and a terrible fear tugged at my heart.

"Fifty thousand hunted, terror-stricken refugees had passed on; the desolate, rocky mountains loomed above us, darkness was all about us and heaven seemed too far away for prayer to reach. A deserted baby wailed all night not far away. When the doctor came he gave two hypodermic injections and returned to the camp saying we should wait there for him to catch up to us in the morning. After the injections Mr. Shedd rested better but he did not again regain consciousness.

"When the light began to reveal things, I could see the awful change in his face, but I could not believe that he was leaving me. Shortly after light the men told me that we could not wait as they heard fighting behind and it was evident the English were attacked, so in his dying hour we had to take him over the rough, stony road. After an hour or two Capt. Reed and the doctor caught up to us. We drew the cart to the side of the road where soon he drew a few short, sharp breaths—and I was alone."

So the British officers, with a little hoe, on the mountain side dug the grave of this brave American shepherd, who had given his life in defending the Assyrian flock from the Turkish wolf. They made the grave just above the road beside a rock; and on it they sprinkled dead grass so that it might not be seen and polluted by the enemy.

* * * * *

The people Dr. Shedd loved were safe. The enemy, whose bullets he had braved for day after day, was defeated by the British soldiers. But the great American leader, whose tired body had not slept while the Assyrians and Armenians were being hunted through the mountains, lies there dreamless on the mountain side.

These are words that broke from the lips of Assyrian sheiks when they heard of his death:

"He bore the burdens of the whole nation upon his shoulders to the last breath of his life.

"As long as we obeyed his advice and followed his lead we were safe and prosperous, but when we ceased to do that destruction came upon us. He was, and ever will be, the Moses of the Assyrian people."

He lies there where his heart always was—in that land in which the Turk, the Assyrian, the Armenian, the Persian, the Russian and the Arab meet; he is there waiting for the others who will go out and take up the work that he has left, the work of carrying to all those eastern peoples the love of the Christ whom Dr. Shedd died in serving.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 63: Born January 25th, 1865. Graduated Marietta College, Ohio, 1887, and Princeton Theological Seminary, 1892.]



CHAPTER XXVI

AN AMERICAN NURSE IN THE GREAT WAR

E.D. Cushman

(Time 1914-1920)

The Turk in Bed

The cold, clear sunlight of a winter morning on the high plateau of Asia Minor shone into the clean, white ward of a hospital in Konia (the greatest city in the heart of that land). The hospital in which the events that I am going to tell in this story happened is supported by Christian folk in America, and was established by two American medical missionaries, Dr. William S. Dodd, and Dr. Wilfred Post, with Miss Cushman, the head nurse, sharing the general superintendence: other members of the staff are Haralambos, their Armenian dispenser and druggist, and Kleoniki, a Greek nurse trained by Miss Cushman. The author spent the early spring of 1914 at the hospital in Konia, when all the people named above were at work there.

The tinkle of camel-bells as a caravan of laden beasts swung by, the quick pad-pad of donkeys' hoofs, the howl of a Turkish dog, the cry of a child—these and other sounds of the city came through the open window of the ward.

On a bed in the corner of the ward lay a bearded man—a Turk—who lived in this ancient city of Konia (the Iconium of St. Paul's day). His brown face and grizzled beard were oddly framed in the white of the spotless pillow and sheets.

His face turned to the door as it opened and the matron entered. The eyes of the Turk as he lay there followed her as she walked toward one of her deft, gentle-handed assistant nurses who, in their neat uniforms with their olive-brown faces framed in dark hair, went from bed to bed tending the patients; giving medicine to a boy here, shaking up a pillow for a sick man there, taking a patient's temperature yonder. Those skilled nurses were Armenian girls. The Armenians are a Christian nation, who have been ruled by the Turks for centuries and often have been massacred by them; yet these Armenian girls were nursing the Turks in the hospital. But the matron of the hospital was not a Turk, nor an Armenian. She had come four thousand miles across the sea to heal the Turks and the Armenians in this land. She was an American.

The Turk in bed turned his eyes from the nurses to a picture on the wall. A frown came on his face. He began to mutter angry words into his beard.

As a Turk he had always been taught, even as a little boy, that the great Prophet Mohammed had told them they must have no pictures of prophets, and he knew from what he had heard that the picture on the wall showed the face of a prophet. It was a picture of a man with a kind, strong face, dressed in garments of the lands of the East, and wearing a short beard. He was stooping down healing a little child. It was our Lord Jesus Christ the Great Physician.

As Miss Cushman—for that was the name of the matron—moved toward his bed, the Turk burst into angry speech.

"Have that picture taken down," he said roughly, pointing to it. She turned to look at the picture and then back at him, and said words like these: "No, that is the picture of Jesus, the great Doctor who lived long ago and taught the people that God is Love. It is because He taught that, and has called me to follow in His steps, that I am here to help to heal you."

But the Turk, who was not used to having women disobey his commands, again ordered angrily that the picture should be taken down. But the American missionary-nurse said gently, but firmly: "No, the picture must stay there to remind us of Jesus. If you cannot endure to see the picture there, then if you wish you may leave the hospital, of course."

And so she passed on. The Turk lay in his bed and thought it over. He wished to get well. If the doctors in this hospital—Dr. Dodd and Dr. Post—did not attend him, and if the nurses did not give him his medicine, he would not. He therefore decided to make no more fuss about the picture. So he lay looking at it, and was rather surprised to find in a few days that he liked to see it there, and that he wanted to hear more and more about the great Prophet-Doctor, Jesus.

Then he had another tussle of wills with Miss Cushman, the white nurse from across the seas. It came about in this way. Women who are Mohammedans keep their faces veiled, but the Armenian Christian nurses had their faces uncovered.

"Surely they are shameless women," he thought in his heart. "And they are Armenians too—Christian infidels!" So he began to treat them rudely. But the white nurse would not stand that.

Miss Cushman went and stood by his bed and said: "I want you to remember that these nurses of mine are here to help you to get well. They are to you even as daughters tending their father; and you must behave to them as a good father to good daughters."

So the Turk lay in bed and thought about that also. It took him a long time to take it in, for he had always been taught to hate the Armenians and to think low thoughts about their womenfolk. But in the end he learnt that lesson also.

At last the Turk got well, left his bed, and went away. He was so thankful that he was better that he was ready to do just anything in the world that Miss Cushman wanted him to do. The days passed on in the hospital, and always the white nurse from across the seas and the Armenian nurses tended the Turkish and other patients, and healed them through the heats of that summer.

War and Massacre

As summer came near to its end there broke on the world the dreadful day when all Europe went to war. Miss Cushman's colleagues, the American doctors at the hospital, left Konia for service in the war. Soon Turkey entered the war. The fury of the Turks against the Armenians burst out into a flame. You might see in Konia two or three Turks sitting in the shadow of a little saddler's shop by the street smoking their hubble-bubble water-pipes, and saying words like these:

"The Armenians are plotting to help the enemies of Turkey. We shall have to kill them all."

"Yes, wipe them out—the accursed infidels!"

The Turks hate the Armenians because their religion, Islam, teaches them to hate the "infidel" Christians; they are of a foreign race and foreign religion in countries ruled by Turks, though the Armenians were there first, and the Armenians are cleverer business men than the Turks, who hate to see their subjects richer than themselves, and hope by massacre to seize Armenian wealth.

Yet all the time, as the wounded Turks were sent from the Gallipoli front back to Konia, the Armenian nurses in the hospital there were healing them. But the Turkish Government gave its orders. Vile bands of Turkish soldiers rushed down on the different cities and villages of the Armenians.[64] One sunny morning a troop of Turkish soldiers came dashing into a quiet little Armenian town among the hills. An order was given. The Turks smashed in the doors of the houses. A father stood up before his family; a bayonet was driven through him and soldiers dashed over his dead body; they looted the house; they smashed up his home; others seized the mother and the daughters—the mother had a baby in her arms; the baby was flung on the ground and then picked up dead on the point of a bayonet; and, though the mother and daughters were not bayoneted then, it would have been better to die at once than to suffer the unspeakable horrors that came to them.

And that happened in hundreds of villages and cities to hundred of thousands of Armenians, while hundreds of thousands more scattered down the mountain passes in flight towards Konia.

The Orphan Boys and Girls

As Miss Cushman and her Armenian nurses looked out through the windows of the hospital, their hearts were sad as they saw some of these Armenian refugees trailing along the road like walking skeletons. What was to happen to them? It was very dangerous for anyone to show that they were friends with the Armenians, but the white matron was as brave as she was kind; so she went out to do what she could to help them.

One day she saw a little boy so thin that the bones seemed almost to be coming through his skin. He was very dirty; his hair was all matted together; and there were bugs and fleas in his clothes and in his hair. The hospital was so full that not another could be taken in. But the boy would certainly die if he were not looked after properly. His father and his mother had both been slain by the Turks; he did not know where his brothers were. He was an orphan alone in all the world.

Miss Cushman knew Armenian people in Konia, and she went to one of these homes and told them about the poor boy and arranged to pay them some money for the cost of his food. So she made a new home for him. The next day she found another boy, and then a girl, and so she went on and on, discovering little orphan Armenian boys and girls who had nobody to care for them, and finding them homes—until she had over six hundred orphans being cared for. It is certain that nearly all of them would have died if she had not looked after them.

So Miss Cushman gathered the six hundred Armenian children together into an orphanage, that was half for the boys and half for the girls. She was a hundred times better than the "Woman who Lived in a Shoe," because, though she had so many children, she did know what to do. She taught them to make nearly everything for themselves. In the mornings you would see half the boys figuring away at their sums or learning to write and read, while the other boys were hammering and sawing and planing at the carpenter's bench; cutting leather and sewing it to make shoes for the other boys and girls; cutting petrol tins up into sheets to solder into kettles and saucepans; and cutting and stitching cloth to make clothes. A young American Red Cross officer who went to see them wrote home, "The kids look happy and healthy and as clean as a whistle."

The People on the Plain

As Miss Cushman looked out again from the hospital window she saw men coming from the country into the city jogging along on little donkeys.

"In the villages all across the plain," they said to her, "are Armenian boys and girls, and men and women. They are starving. Many are without homes, wandering about in rags till they simply lie down on the ground, worn out, and die."

Miss Cushman sent word to friends far away in America, and they sent food from America to Turkey in ships, and a million dollars of money to help the starving children. So Miss Cushman got together her boys and girls and some other helpers, and soon they were very busy all day and every day wrapping food and clothes into parcels.

Next a caravan of snorting camels came swinging in to the courtyard and, grumbling and rumbling, knelt down, to be loaded up. The parcels were done up in big bales and strapped on to the camels' backs. Then at a word from the driver the camels rose from their knees and went lurching out from Konia into the country, over the rough, rolling tracks, to carry to the people the food and clothes that would keep them alive.

The wonderful thing is that these camels were led by a Turk belonging to the people who hate the Armenians, yet he was carrying food and clothes to them! Why did this Turk in Konia go on countless journeys, travelling over thousands of miles with tens of thousands of parcels containing wheat for bread and new shirts and skirts and other clothes for the Armenians whom he had always hated, and never lose a single parcel?

Why did he do it?

This is the reason. Before the war when he was ill in the hospital Miss Cushman had nursed him with the help of her Armenian girls, and had made him better; he was so thankful that he would just run to do anything that she wished him to do.

To Stay or not to Stay?

But at last Miss Cushman—worn out with all this work—fell ill with a terrible fever. For some time it was not certain that she would not die of it; for a whole month she lay sick in great weakness. President Wilson had at this time broken off relations between America and Turkey. The Turk now thought of the American as an enemy; and Miss Cushman was an American. She was in peril. What was she to do?

"It is not safe to stay," said her friends. "You will be practically a prisoner of war. You will be at the mercy of the Turks. You know what the Turk is—as treacherous as he is cruel. They can, if they wish, rob you or deport you anywhere they like. Go now while the path is open—before it is too late. You are in the very middle of Turkey, hundreds of miles from any help. The dangers are terrible."

As soon as she was well enough Miss Cushman went to the Turkish Governor of Konia, a bitter Mohammedan who had organised the massacre of forty thousand Armenians, to say that she had been asked to go back to America.

"What shall you do if I stay?" she asked.

"I beg you to stay," said the Governor. "You shall be protected. You need have no fear."

"Your words are beautiful," she replied. "But if American and Turkey go to war you will deport me."

If she stayed she knew the risks under his rule. She was still weak from her illness. There was no colleague by her side to help her. There seemed to be every reason why she should sail away back to America. But as she sat thinking it over she saw before her the hospital full of wounded soldiers, the six hundred orphans who looked to her for help, the plain of a hundred villages to which she was sending food. No one could take her place.

Yet she was weak and tired after her illness and, in America, rest and home, friends and safety called to her.

"It was," she wrote later to her friends, "a heavy problem to know what to do with the orphans and other helpless people who depended on me for life."

What would you have done? What do you think she did? For what reason should she face these perils?

Not in the heat of battle, but in cool quiet thought, all alone among enemies, she saw her path and took it. She did not count her life her own. She was ready to give her life for her friends of all nations. She decided to stay in the heart of the enemies' country and serve her God and the children. Many a man has had the cross of Honour for an act that called for less calm courage. That deed showed her to be one of the great undecorated heroes and heroines of the lonely path.

So she stayed on.

From all over the Turkish Empire prisoners were sent to Konia. There was great confusion in dealing with them, so the people of Konia asked Miss Cushman to look after them; they even wrote to the Turkish Government at Constantinople to tell them to write to her to invite her to do this work. There was a regular hue and cry that she should be appointed, because everyone knew her strong will, her power of organising, her just treatment, her good judgment, and her loving heart. So at last she accepted the invitation. Prisoners of eleven different nationalities she helped—including British, French, Italian, Russian, Indians and Arabs. She arranged for the nursing of the sick, the feeding of the hungry, the freeing of some from prison.

She went on right through the war to the end and beyond the end, caring for her orphans, looking after the sick in hospital, sending food and clothes to all parts of the country, helping the prisoners. Without caring whether they were British or Turkish, Armenian or Indian, she gave her help to those who needed it. And because of her splendid courage thousands of boys and girls and men and women are alive and well, who—without her—would have starved and frozen to death.

To-day, in and around Konia (an Army officer who has been there tells us), the people do not say, "If Allah wills," but "If Miss Cushman wills!" It is that officer's way of letting us see how, through her brave daring, her love, and her hard work, that served everybody, British, Armenian, Turk, Indian, and Arab, she has become the uncrowned Queen of Konia, whose bidding all the people do because she only cares to serve them, not counting her own life dear to her.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 64: In reading this part of the story to younger children discretion should be exercised. Some of the details on this page are horrible; but it is right that older children should realize the evil and how Miss Cushman's courage faced it.]



CHAPTER XXVII

ON THE DESERT CAMEL TRAIL

Archibald Forder

(Time of Incident 1900-1901)

The Boy Who Listened

An eight-year-old schoolboy sat one evening in a crowded meeting in Salisbury, his eyes wide open with wonder as he heard a bronzed and bearded man on the platform telling of his adventures in Africa. The man was Robert Moffat.

It was a hot summer night in August (1874). The walls of the building where the meeting was held seemed to have disappeared and the boy Archibald Forder could in imagination see "the plain of a thousand villages," that Livingstone had seen when this same Robert Moffat had called him to Africa many years before. As the boy Archibald heard Moffat he too wished to go out into the foreign field. Many things happened as he grew up; but he never forgot that evening.

At the age of thirteen he left home and was apprenticed to the grocery and baking business. In 1888 he married. At this time he read in a magazine about missionary work in Kerak beyond the River Jordan—in Moab among the Arabs—where a young married man ready to rough it was needed. He sailed with his wife for Kerak on September 3, 1891, and left Jerusalem by camel on September 30, on the four days' journey across Jordan to Kerak. Three times they were robbed by brigands on this journey. Mr. Forder worked there till 1896. He then left and travelled through America to secure support for an attempt to penetrate Central Arabia with the first effort to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ there.

The story that follows tells how Forder made his pioneer journey into the Arabian desert.

The Adventure into the Desert

Two pack-horses were stamping their hoofs impatiently outside a house in Jerusalem in the early morning a week or two before Christmas.[65] Inside the house a man was saying good-bye to his wife and his three children. He was dressed as an Arab, with a long scarf wrapped about his head and on the top the black rope of twisted goats' hair that the Arab puts on when he becomes a man.

"Will you be long, Father?" asked his little four-year-old boy.

The father could not answer, for he was going out from Jerusalem for hundreds of miles into the sun and the thirst of the desert, to the land of the fiercest Arabs—Moslems whose religion tells them that they must kill the infidel Christians. It was difficult to tear himself from his wife and his children and go out to face death in the desert. But he had come out here to carry to the Arab the story of Jesus Christ, who Himself had died on a Cross outside this very city.

So he kissed his little boy "good-bye," wrenched himself away, climbed on top of the load on one of the pack horses and rode out through the gate into the unknown. He thought as his horses picked their way down the road from Jerusalem toward Jericho of how Jesus Christ had been put to death in this very land. Over his left shoulder he saw the slopes of the Mount of Olives; down below across the ravine on his right was the Garden of Gethsemane. In a short time he was passing through Bethany where Mary and Martha lived. Down the steep winding road amongst the rocks he went, and took a cup of cold water at the inn of the Good Samaritan.

Then with the Wilderness of Desolation stretching its tawny tumbled desert hills away to the left, he moved onward, down and down until the road came out a thousand feet below sea-level among the huts and sheepfolds of Jericho, where he slept that night.

With his face toward the dawn that came up over the hills of Moab in the distance, he was off again over the plain with the Dead Sea on his right, across the swiftly flowing Jordan, and climbing the ravines that lead into the mountains of Gilead.

That night he stayed with a Circassian family in a little house of only one room into which were crowded his two horses, a mule, two donkeys, a yoke of oxen, some sheep and goats, a crowd of cocks and hens, four small dirty children and their father and mother; and a great multitude of fleas.

The mother fried him a supper of eggs with bread, and after it he showed them something that they had never seen before. He took out of his pack a copy of the New Testament translated into Arabic.[66] He read bits out of it and talked to them about the Love of God.

Early next morning, his saddle-bag stuffed with a batch of loaves which the woman had baked first thing in the morning specially for him, he set out again.

How could a whole batch of loaves be stuffed in one saddle-bag? The loaves are flat and circular like a pancake. The dough is spread on a kind of cushion, the woman takes up the cushion with the dough on it, pushes it through the opening and slaps the dough on the inner wall of a big mud oven (out of doors) that has been heated with a fire of twigs, and in a minute or two pushes the cushion in again and the cooked bread falls on to it.

So Forder climbed up the mountain track till he came out on the high plain. He saw the desert in front of him—like a vast rolling ocean of glowing gold it stretched away and away for close on a thousand miles eastward to the Persian Gulf. Forder knew that only here and there in all those blazing, sandy wastes were oases where men could build their houses round some well or little stream that soon lost itself in the sand. All the rest was desert across which man and beast must hurry or die of thirst. He must follow the camel-tracks from oasis to oasis, where they could find a well of water, therefore drink for man and camel, and date-palms.

So turning north he pressed on[67] till on the sixth day out from Jerusalem the clouds came up with the dawn, and hail and rain, carried by a biting east wind, beat down upon him. Lifting his eyes to the horizon he saw ahead the sturdy castle and thick walls of the ancient city of Bosra. Stumbling through the storm, along the narrow winding streets, he met, to his disgust, a man whose dress showed that he was a Turkish Government official. He knew that the Turkish Government would be against a Christian and a foreigner going into their land.

"Who are you?" asked the official, stopping him. "Where are you from? Where are you going?"

Forder told him, and the man said. "Come with me. I will find you and your horses shelter at the Governor's house." Forder followed him into a large room in the middle of which on the floor a fire was burning.

"I must examine all your cases," said the official. "Get up. Open your boxes."

"Never," said Forder. "This is not a custom-house."

"Your boxes are full of powder for arming the Arabs against the Turkish Government," replied the official.

"I will not open them," said Forder, "unless you bring me written orders from the Turkish Governor in Damascus and from the British Consul."

Off went the official to consult the headman (the equivalent of the Mayor) of the city. The headman came and asked many questions. At last he said:

"Well, my orders are to turn back all Europeans and not to let any stay in these parts. However, as you seem to be almost an Arab, may God go with you and give you peace."

So Forder and the headman of the ancient city of Bosra got talking together. Forder opened his satchel and drew out an Arabic New Testament, and together they read parts of the story of the life of Jesus Christ and talked about Him till ten o'clock at night. As the headman rose to go to his own rooms Forder offered to him, and he gladly took, the copy of the New Testament in Arabic to read for himself.

Saved by the Mist

Next morning early, Forder had his horses loaded and started off with his face to the dawn. The track now led toward the great Castle of Sulkhund, which he saw looming up on the horizon twenty-five miles away, against the dull sky. But mist came down; wind, rain, and hail buffeted him; the horses, to escape the hail in their faces, turned aside, and the trail was lost. Mist hid everything. Forder's compass showed that he was going south; so he turned east again; but he could not strike the narrow, broken, stony trail.

Suddenly smoke could be seen, and then a hamlet of thirty houses loomed up. Forder opened a door and a voice came calling, "Welcome!" He went in and saw some Arabs crouching there out of the rain. A fire of dried manure was made; the smoke made Forder's eyes smart and the tears run down his cheeks. He changed into another man's clothes, and hung his own up in the smoke to dry.

"Where are we?" he asked. The men told him that he was about two and a half hours' ride from the castle and two hours off the track that he had left in the mist. The men came in from the other little houses to see the stranger and sip coffee. Forder again brought out an Arabic New Testament and found to his surprise that some of the men could read quite well and were very keen on his books. So they bought some of the Bibles from him. They had no money but paid him in dried figs, flour and eggs. At last they left him to curl up on the hard floor; and in spite of the cold and draughts and the many fleas he soon fell asleep.

As dawn came up he rose and started off: there (as he climbed out of the hollow in which the hamlet lay) he could see the Castle Sulkhund. He knew that the Turks did not want any foreigner to enter that land of the Arabs, and that if he were seen, he would certainly be ordered back. Yet he could not hide, for the path ran close under the castle, and on the wall strode the sentry. The plain was open; there was no way by which he could creep past.

At last he came to the hill on which the castle stood. At that very moment a dense mist came down; he walked along, lost the track, and found it again. Then there came a challenge from the sentry. He could not see the sentry or the sentry him. So he called back in Arabic that he was a friend, and so passed on in the mist. At last he was out on the open ground beyond both the castle and the little town by it. Five minutes later the mist blew away; the sun shone; the castle was passed, and the open plains lay before him. The mist had saved him.

In an hour he came to a large town named Orman on the edge of the desert sandy plains; and here he stayed for some weeks. His horses were sent back to Jerusalem. Instead of towns and villages of huts, he would now find only the tents of wandering Arabs who had to keep moving to find bits of sparse growth for their few sheep and camels. While he was at Orman he managed to make friends with many of the Arabs and with their Chief. He asked the Chief to help him on toward Kaf—an oasis town across the desert.

"Don't go," the Chief and his people said, "the Arabs there are bad: when we go we never let our rifles out of our hands."

So the old Chief told him of the dangers of the desert; death from thirst or from the fiery Arabs of Kaf.

"I am trusting God to protect and keep me," said Forder. "I believe He will do so."

So Forder handed the Chief most of his money to take care of, and sewed up the rest into the waistband of his trousers. (It is as safe as a bank to hand your money to an Arab chief who has entertained you in his tent. If you have "eaten his salt" he will not betray or rob you. Absolute loyalty to your guest is the unwritten law that no true Arab ever breaks.)

The Caravan of Two Thousand Camels

At last the old Chief very unwillingly called a man, told him to get a camel, load up Forder's things on it, and pass him on to the first Arab tent that he found. Two days passed before they found a group of Bedouin tents. He was allowed to sleep in a tent: but early in the morning he woke with a jump. The whole of the tent had fallen right on him; he crawled out. He saw the Arab women standing round; they had pulled the tent down.

"Why do you do this so early?" he asked.

"The men," they replied, "have ordered us to move to another place; they fear to give shelter to a Christian—one that is unclean and would cause trouble to come on us."

So the tribesmen with their women and flocks made off, leaving Forder, his guide, and the camel alone in the desert. That afternoon he found a tent and heard that a great caravan was expected to pass that night on the way to Kaf to get salt. Night fell; it was a full moon. Forder sat with the others in the tent doorway round the fire. A man ran up to them.

"I hear the bells of the camels," he said. Quickly Forder's goods were loaded on a camel. He jumped on top. He was led off into the open plain. Away across the desert clear in the moonlight came the dark mass of the caravan with the tinkle of innumerable bells.

Arabs galloped ahead of the caravan. They drew up their horses shouting, "Who are you? What do you want?" Then came fifty horsemen with long spears in their hands, rifles slung from their shoulders, swords hanging from their belts, and revolvers stuck in their robes. They were guarding the first section made up of four hundred camels. There were four sections, each guarded by fifty warriors.

As they passed, the man with Forder shouted out the names of friends of his who—he thought—would be in the caravan. Sixteen hundred camels passed in the moonlight, but still no answer came. Then the last section began to pass. The cry went up again of the names of the men. At last an answering shout was heard. The men they sought were found. Forder's guide explained who he was and that he wanted to go to Kaf. His baggage was swiftly shifted onto another camel, and in a few minutes he had mounted, and his camel was swinging along with two thousand others into the east.

For hour after hour the tireless camels swung on and on, tawny beasts on a tawny desert, under a silver moon that swam in a deep indigo sky in which a million stars sparkled. The moon slowly sank behind them; ahead the first flush of pink lighted the sky; but still they pushed on. At last at half-past six in the morning they stopped. Forder flung himself on the sand wrapped in his abba (his Arab cloak) and in a few seconds was asleep. In fifteen minutes, however, they awakened him. Already most of the camels had moved on. From dawn till noon, from noon under the blazing sun till half-past five in the afternoon, the camels moved on and on, "unhasting, unresting." As the camels were kneeling to be unloaded, a shout went up. Forder looking up saw ten robbers on horseback on a mound. Like the wind the caravan warriors galloped after them firing rapidly, and at last captured them and dragged them back to the camp.

"Start again," the command went round, and in fifteen minutes the two thousand camels swung grumbling and groaning out on the endless trail of the desert. The captured Arabs were marched in the centre. All through the night the caravan went on from moonrise to moonset, and through the morning from dawn till ten o'clock—for they dared not rest while the tribe from whom they had captured the prisoners could get near them. Then they released the captives and sent them back, for on the horizon they saw the green palms of Kaf, the city that they sought.

The camels had only rested for thirty minutes in forty hours.[68] With grunts of pleasure they dropped on their knees and were freed from their loads, and began hungrily to eat their food.

Forder leapt down and was so glad to be in Kaf that he ran into some palm gardens close by and sang "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow," jumped for joy, and then washed all the sweat and sand from himself in a hot spring of sulphur water.

Lying down on the floor of a little house to which he was shown, he slept, with his head on his saddlebags, all day till nearly sunset.

At sunset a gun was fired. The caravan was starting on its return journey. Forder's companions on the caravan came to him.

"Come back with us," they said. "Why will you stay with these cursed people of Kaf? They will surely kill you because you are a Christian."

It was hard to stay. But no Christian white man had ever been in that land before carrying the Good News of Jesus, and Forder had come out to risk his life for that very purpose. So he stayed.

What made Forder put his life in peril and stand the heat, vermin, and hate? Why try to make friends with these wild bandits? Why care about them at all? He was a baker in his own country in England and might have gone on with this work. It was the love of Christ that gave him the love of all men, and, in obeying His command to "Go into all the world," he found adventure, made friends, and left with them the Good News in the New Testament.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 65: Thursday morning, December 13, 1900.]

[Footnote 66: Recall Henry Martyn and Sabat at work on this.]

[Footnote 67: Passing Es-Salt (Ramoth Gilead), Gerash and Edrei in Bashan.]

[Footnote 68: It took the caravan six days to go back.]



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE FRIEND OF THE ARAB

Archibald Forder

(Date of Incident, 1901)

The Lone Trail of Friendship

So the two thousand camels swung out on the homeward trail. Forder now was alone in Kaf.

"Never," he says, "shall I forget the feeling of loneliness that came over me as I made my way back to my room. The thought that I was the only Christian in the whole district was one that I cannot well describe."

As Forder passed a group of Arabs he heard them muttering to one another, "Nisraney[69]—one of the cursed ones—the enemy of Allah!" He remembered that he had been warned that the Arabs of Kaf were fierce, bigoted Moslems who would slay a Christian at sight. But he put on a brave front and went to the Chief's house. There he sat down with the men on the ground and began to eat with them from a great iron pot a hot, slimy, greasy savoury, and then sipped coffee with them.

"Why have you come here?" they asked him.

"My desire is," he replied, "to pass on to the Jowf."

Now the Jowf is the largest town in the Syrian desert—the most important in all Northern Arabia. From there camel caravans go north, south, east, and west. Forder could see how his Arabic New Testaments would be carried from that city to all the camel tracks of Arabia.

"The Jowf is eleven days' camel ride away there," they said, pointing to the south-east.



"Go back to Orman," said the Chief, whose name was Mohammed-el-Bady, "it is at your peril that you go forward."

He sent a servant to bring in the headman of his caravan. "This Nisraney wishes to go with the caravan to the Jowf," said the Chief. "What do you think of it?"

"If I took a Christian to the Jowf," replied the caravan leader, "I am afraid Johar the Chief there would kill me for doing such a thing. I cannot do it."

"Yes," another said, turning to Forder, "if you ever want to see the Jowf you must turn Moslem, as no Christian would be allowed to live there many days."

"Well," said the Chief, closing the discussion, "I will see more about this to-morrow."

As the men sat smoking round the fire Forder pulled a book out from his pouch. They watched him curiously.

"Can any of you read?" he asked. There were a number who could; so Forder opened the book—which was an Arabic New Testament—at St. John's Gospel, Chapter III.

"Will you read?" he asked.

So the Arab read in his own language this chapter. As we read the chapter through ourselves it is interesting to wonder which of the verses would be most easily understood by the Arabs. When the Arab who was reading came to the words:

"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," Forder talked to them telling what the words meant. They listened very closely and asked many questions. It was all quite new to them.

"Will you give me the book?" asked the Arab who was reading. Forder knew that he would only value it if he bought it, so he sold it to him for some dates, and eight or nine men bought copies from him.

Next day the Chief tried to get other passing Arabs to conduct Forder to the Jowf, but none would take the risk. So at last he lent him two of his own servants to lead him to Ithera—an oasis four hours' camel ride across the desert. So away they went across the desert and in the late afternoon saw the palms of Ithera.

"We have brought you a Christian," shouted the servants as they led Forder into a room full of men, and dumped his goods down on the floor. "We stick him on to you; do what you can with him."

"This is neither a Christian, nor a Jew, nor an infidel," shouted one of the men, "but a pig." He did not know that Forder understood Arabic.

"Men," he replied boldly, "I am neither pig, infidel, nor Jew. I am a Christian, one that worships God, the same God as you do."

"If you are a Christian," exclaimed the old Chief, "go and sit among the cattle!" So Forder went to the further end of the room and sat between an old white mare and a camel.

Soon a man came in, and walking over to Forder put his hand out and shook his. He sat down by him and, talking very quietly so that the others should not hear, said: "Who are you, and from where do you come?"

"From Jerusalem," said Forder. "I am a Christian preacher."

"If you value your life," went on the stranger, "you will get out of this as quickly as you can, or the men, who are a bad lot, will kill you. I am a Druze[70] but I pretend to be a Moslem."

"What sort of a man is the Chief of Ithera?" asked Forder.

"Very kind," was the reply. So the friendly stranger went out. Forder listened carefully to the talk.

"Let us cut his throat while he is asleep," said one man.

"No," said the Chief. "I will not have the blood of a Christian on my house and town."

"Let us poison his supper," said another. But the Chief would not agree.

"Drive him out into the desert to die of hunger and thirst," suggested a third. "No," said the Chief, whose name was Khy-Khevan, "we will leave him till the morning."

Forder was then called to share supper with the others, and afterwards the Chief led him out to the palm gardens, so that his evil influence should not make the beasts ill; half an hour later, fearing he would spoil the date-harvest by his presence, the Chief led him to a filthy tent where an old man lay with a disease so horrible that they had thrust him out of the village to die.

The next day Forder found that later in the week the old Chief himself was going to the Jowf. Ripping open the waistband of his trousers, Forder took out four French Napoleons (gold coins worth 16s. each) and went off to the Chief, whom he found alone in his guest room.

Walking up to him Forder held out the money saying, "If you will let me go to the Jowf with you, find me camel, water and food, I will give you these four pieces."

"Give them to me now," said Khy-Khevan, "and we will start after to-morrow."

"No," replied Forder, "you come outside, and before the men of the place I will give them to you; they must be witnesses." So in the presence of the men the bargain was made.

In the morning the camels were got together—about a hundred and twenty of them—with eighty men, some of whom came round Forder, and patting their daggers and guns said, "These things are for using on Christians. We shall leave your dead body in the sand if you do not change your religion and be a follower of Mohammed."

After these cheerful encouragements the caravan started at one o'clock. For four hours they travelled. Then a shout went up—"Look behind!"

Looking round Forder saw a wild troop of Bedouin robbers galloping after them as hard as they could ride. The camels were rushed together in a group: the men of Ithera fired on the robbers and went after them. After a short, sharp battle the robbers made off and the men settled down where they were for the night, during which they had to beat off another attack by the robbers.

Forder said, "What brave fellows you are!" This praise pleased them immensely, and they began to be friendly with him, and forgot that they had meant to leave his dead body in the desert, though they still told him he would be killed at the Jowf. For three days they travelled on without finding any water, and even on the fourth day they only found it by digging up the sand with their fingers till they had made a hole over six feet deep where they found some.

In the Heart of the Desert

At last Forder saw the great mass of the old castle, "no one knows how old," that guards the Jowf[71] that great isolated city with its thousands of lovely green date palms in the heart of the tremendous ocean of desert.

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