Men, women and children came pouring out to meet their friends: for a desert city is like a port to which the wilderness is the ocean, and the caravan of camels is the ship, and the friends go down as men do to the harbour to meet friends from across the sea.
"May Allah curse him!" they cried, scowling, when they heard that a Christian stranger was in the caravan. "The enemy of Allah and the prophet! Unclean! Infidel!"
Johar, the great Chief of the Jowf, commanded that Forder should be brought into his presence, and proceeded to question him:
"Did you come over here alone?"
"Yes," he answered.
"Were you not afraid?"
"No," he replied.
"Have you no fear of anyone?"
"Yes, I fear God and the devil."
"Do you not fear me?"
"But I could cut your head off."
"Yes," answered Forder, "I know you could. But you wouldn't treat a guest thus."
"You must become a follower of Mohammed," said Johar, "for we are taught to kill Christians. Say to me, 'There is no God but God and Mohammed is His prophet' and I will give you wives and camels and a house and palms." Everybody sat listening for the answer. Forder paused and prayed in silence for a few seconds, for he knew that on his answer life or death would depend.
"Chief Johar," said Forder, "if you were in the land of the Christians, the guest of the monarch, and if the ruler asked you to become a Christian and give up your religion would you do it?"
"No," said Johar proudly, "not if the ruler had my head cut off."
"Secondly," he said to Johar, "which do you think it best to do, to please God or to please man?"
"To please God," said the Chief.
"Johar," said Forder, "I am just like you; I cannot change my religion, not if you cut off two heads; and I must please God by remaining a Christian.... I cannot do what you ask me. It is impossible." Johar rose up and went out much displeased.
"Kill the Christian!"
One day soon after this there was fierce anger because the mud tower in which Johar was sitting fell in, and Johar was covered with the debris. "This is the Christian's doing," someone cried. "He looked at the tower and bewitched it, so it has fallen." At once the cry was raised, "Kill the Christian—kill him—kill him! The Christian! The Christian!"
An angry mob dashed toward Forder with clubs, daggers and revolvers. He stood still awaiting them. They were within eighty yards when, to his own amazement, three men came from behind him, and standing in front of Forder between him and his assailants pulled out their revolvers and shouted, "Not one of you come near this Christian!" The murderous crowd halted. Forder slowly walked backwards toward his room, his defenders doing the same, and the crowd melted away.
He then turned to his three defenders and said, "What made you come to defend me as you did?"
"We have been to India," they answered, "and we have seen the Christians there, and we know that they do no harm to any man. We have also seen the effect of the rule of you English in that land and in Egypt, and we will always help Christians when we can. We wish the English would come here; Christians are better than Moslems."
* * * * *
Other adventures came to Forder in the Jowf, and he read the New Testament with some of the men who bought the books from him to read. At last Khy-Khevan, the Chief of Ithera, who had brought Forder to the Jowf, said that he must go back, and Forder, who had now learned what he wished about the Jowf, and had put the books of the Gospel into the hands of the men, decided to return to his wife and boys in Jerusalem to prepare to bring them over to live with him in that land of the Arabs. So he said farewell to the Chief Johar, and rode away on a camel with Khy-Khevan. Many things he suffered—from fever and hunger, from heat and thirst, and vermin. But at last he reached Jerusalem once more; and his little four-year-old boy clapped hands with joy as he saw his father come back after those long months of peril and hardship.
Fifteen hundred miles he had ridden on horse and camel, or walked. Two hundred and fifty Arabic Gospels and Psalms had been sold to people who had never seen them before. Hundreds of men and women had heard him tell them of the love of Jesus. And friends had been made among Arabs all over those desert tracks, to whom he could go back again in the days that were to come. The Arabs of the Syrian Desert all think of Archibald Forder to-day as their friend and listen to him because he has proved to them that he wishes them well.
"SEEING THEN THAT WE ARE COMPASSED ABOUT WITH SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES, LET US LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT AND THE SIN WHICH DOTH SO EASILY BESET US, AND LET US RUN WITH PATIENCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US, LOOKING UNTO JESUS, THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTER OF OUR FAITH, WHO FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM ENDURED THE CROSS, DESPISING THE SHAME."
[Footnote 69: That is Nasarene (or Christian).]
[Footnote 70: The Druzes are a separate nation and sect whose religion is a kind of Islam mixed with relics of old Eastern faiths, e.g., sun-worship.]
[Footnote 71: The Jowf is a large oasis town with about 40,000 inhabitants, about 250 miles from the edge of the desert. The water supply is drawn up by camels from deep down in the earth.]