Jimgrim and Allah’s Peace - Talbot Mundy - ebook

Jimgrim and Allah’s Peace ebook

Talbot Mundy



El Qudz – so the Arabs call Jerusalem, somewhere elsewhere called Shalabi Cabir. This is a very beautiful city located on the hill. El Quds is translated as the City of Peace, and this is what it is for millions of people. Many religions, many races, many disguised politicians disguised as plans to save human souls from hell and fill the wallet of some people.

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BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE A Letter from Talbot Mundy

CHAPTER 1 “Look for a man named Grim.”

CHAPTER 2 “No objection; only a stipulation.”

CHAPTER 3 “Do whatever the leader of the escort tells you.”

CHAPTER 4 “I am willing to use all means—all methods.”

CHAPTER 5 “D’you mind if I use you?”

CHAPTER 6 “That man will repay study.”

CHAPTER 7 “Who gives orders to me?”

CHAPTER 8 “He will say next that it was he who set the stars in the sky over El-Kerak and makes the moon rise!”

CHAPTER 9 “Feet downwards, too afraid to yell—”

CHAPTER 10 “Money doesn’t weigh much!”

CHAPTER 11 “And the rest of the acts of Ahaziah—”

CHAPTER 12 “You know you’ll get scuppered if you’re found out!”

CHAPTER 13 “You may now be unsafe and an outlaw and enjoy yourself!”

CHAPTER 14 “Windy bellies without hearts in them.”

CHAPTER 15 “I’ll have nothing to do with it!”

CHAPTER 16 “The enemy is nearly always useful if you leave him free to make mistakes.”

CHAPTER 17 “Poor old Scharnhoff’s in the soup.”

CHAPTER 18 “But we’re ready for them.”

CHAPTER 19 “Dead or alive, Sahib.”

CHAPTER 20 “All men are equal in the dark.”

BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE A Letter from Talbot Mundy

TALBOT MUNDY gave his readers some information about the real-life “Jimgrim” in a letter published, as an afterword, in “The Camp-Fire” section of the issue of Adventure (v32 #1, December 10, 1921) in which the second story of the series, “Under the Dome of the Rock,” appeared. The first story, “The Adventure at El-Kerak,” was subsequently merged with the second to create the present novel–“Jimgrim and Allah’s Peace.”

Thanks and credit for making this letter available to RGL readers go to Matthew Whitehaven, who donated a copy from his personal archive for inclusion in this new edition of the book.

Adventure introduced the letter with the words:

“Concerning his novelette in this issue–and the series of which it is the second–Talbot Mundy gives us the following. As you know, he spent most of 1920 in Arabia and Palestine.”

The letter itself reads:

“The chief difficulty about these Jimgrim stories has been to hide ‘Grim’s’ real identity. I believe he was the first American ever commisioned without going through the farce of pretending to be a Canadian; he stuck out for his citizenship, and, as they wanted him badly, he had his way. Colonel Lawrence is probably the only man in the world who knows the Arab better than ‘Grim’ does; he fought behind Lawrence all through that wonderful campaign on Allenby’s right wing, doing the unseen, unsung spade-work. Now that the war is over they have kept ‘Grim’ on the staff for what is known as ‘special duty,’ and he goes pretty well where he likes.

“His methods are quite peculiar. He makes friends where he likes, in the jail or out of it; a man’s crimes seem to make no difference to him; he isn’t concerned about other folks’ morals, but takes men and women as he finds them. And he posesses a perfect genius for stalling trouble by hunting for the high spots of human charcter. One favorite trick of his is to use small boys as spies–the smaller the better; and sometimes they realise they are being so used, and oftener not.

“‘Under the Dome of the Rock’ is founded almost wholly on fact, although various events have been run together to make a connected story. The Dome of the Rock–more commonly miscalled the Mosque of Omar–is the next most sacred place after Mecca and Medina in the Moslem world; and, being on the site of Solomon’s and Herod’s temples, it is equally sacred to Christian and Jew. In fact, few orthodox Jews will enter the precincts for fear of treading unaware on the spot (now unknown) where the ancient Holy of Holies stood.

“Excavation under the Dome of the Rock is, of course, absolutely forbidden. Any attempt at it, if known, would be certain to stir fanaticism to its depths. But there was a German or Austrian (I am not sure which) who did contrive to excavate pretty much as told in the story; he was the caught, the affair was hushed up, and ‘Grim’ is one of the very few who know what lies under the Rock of Abraham.

“There are dozens of places in Jerusalem that would answer to the description of Djemal’s coffee shop.

“Narayam Singh, like ‘Grim’, is a personal friend of mine. He is one of the those born soldiers who never get promoted, for the reason that about once in six months he takes an awful lot too much whisky, and, when primed, not even his beloved British colonel can make him behave. In between times he is one of those rare men whose friendship makes you stand straight. I could never draw a color line. I hate a mean white much more than I do the vilest negro, for it seems obvious to me that the mean white has a chance to know better, whereas the negro hasn’t. Of course, there is nothing negroish about a Sikh, but there are folk who object to them on racial grounds. Lacking that racial prejudice, I found it much less difficult than most men to get on terms with ‘Grim,’ who, as I said, makes friends ‘wherever he darned well chooses.’ He sticks to his friends, too, and they stand by him, as will transpire in future stories.

–“Talbot Mundy, New York.”


“Look for a man named Grim.”

THERE is a beautiful belief that journalists may do exactly as they please, and whenever they please. Pleasure with violet eyes was in Chicago. My passport describes me as a journalist. My employer said: “Go to Jerusalem.” I went. That was in 1920.

I had been there a couple of times before the World War, when the Turks were in full control. So I knew about the bedbugs and the stench of the citadel moat; the pre-war price of camels; enough Arabic to misunderstand it when spoken fluently, and enough of the Old Testament and the Koran to guess at Arabian motives, which are important, whereas words are usually such stuff as lies are made of.

El Kudz, as Arabs call Jerusalem, is, from a certain distance, as they also call it, shellabi kabir–extremely beautiful. Beautiful upon a mountain. El Kudz means The City, and in a certain sense it is that, to unnumbered millions of people. Ludicrous, uproarious, dignified, pious, sinful, naively confidential, secretive, altruistic, realistic. Hoary-ancient and ultra-modern. Very, very proud of its name Jerusalem, which means City of Peace. Full to the brim with the malice of certainly fifty religions, fifty races, and five hundred thousand curious political chicaneries disguised as plans to save our souls from hell and fill some fellow’s purse. The jails are full.

“Look for a man named Grim,” said my employer. “James Schuyler Grim, American, aged thirty-four or so. I’ve heard he knows the ropes.”

The ropes, when I was in Jerusalem before the war, were principally used for hanging people at the Jaffa Gate, after they had been well beaten on the soles of their feet to compel them to tell where their money was hidden. The Turks entirely understood the arts of suppression and extortion, which they defined as government. The British, on the other hand, subject their normal human impulse to be greedy, and their educated craving to be gentlemanly white man’s burden-bearers, to a process of compromise. Perhaps that isn’t government. But it works. They even carry compromise to the point of not hanging even their critics if they can possibly avoid doing it. They had not yet, but they were about to receive a brand-new mandate from a brand-new League of Nations, awkwardly qualified by Mr. Balfour’s post-Armistice promise to the Zionists to give the country to the Jews, and by a war-time promise, in which the French had joined, to create an Arab kingdom for the Arabs.

So there was lots of compromising being done, and hell to pay, with no one paying, except, of course, the guests in the hotels, at New York prices. The Zionist Jews were arriving in droves. The Arabs, who owned most of the land, were threatening to cut all the Jews’ throats as soon as they could first get all their money. Faisal,* a descendant of the Prophet, who had fought gloriously against the Turks, was romantically getting ready in Damascus to be crowned King of Syria. The French, who pride themselves on being realistic, were getting ready to go after Faisal with bayonets and poison-gas, as they eventually did.

In Jerusalem the Bolsheviks, astonishingly credulous of “secret” news from Moscow, and skeptical of every one’s opinion but their own, were bolsheviking Marxian Utopia beneath a screen of such arrogant innocence that even the street-corner police constables suspected them. And Mustapha Kemal, in Anatolia, was rumored to be preparing a holy war. It was known as a Ghazi in those days. He had not yet scrapped religion. He was contemplating, so said rumor, a genuine old-fashioned Moslem jihad, with modern trimmings.

A few enthusiasts astonishingly still labored for an American mandate. At the Holy Sepulcher a British soldier stood on guard with bayonet and bullets to prevent the priests of rival creeds from murdering one another. The sun shone and so did the stars. General Bols reopened Pontius Pilate’s water-works. The learned monks in convents argued about facts and theories denied by archaeologists. Old-fashioned Jews wailed at the Wailing Wall. Tommy Atkins blasphemously dug corpses of donkeys and dogs from the Citadel moat.

I arrived in the midst of all that, and spent a couple of months trying to make head or tail of it, and wondering, if that was peace, what war is? They say that wherever a man was ever slain in Palestine a flower grows. So one gets a fair idea of the country’s mass-experience without much difficulty. For three months of the year, from end to end, the whole landscape is carpeted with flowers so close together that, except where beasts and men have trodden winding tracks, one can hardly walk without crushing an anemone or wild chrysanthemum. There are more battle-fields in that small land than all Europe can show. There are streams everywhere that historians assert repeatedly “ran blood for days.”

Five thousand years of bloody terrorism, intermingling of races, piety, plunder, politics and pilgrims, have produced a self-consciousness as concentrated as liquid poison-gas. The laughter is sarcastic, the humor sardonic, and the credulity beyond analysis. For instance, when I got there, I heard the British being accused of “imperialistic savagery” because they had removed the leprous beggars from the streets into a clean place where they could receive medical treatment.

It was difficult to find one line of observation. Whatever anybody told you was reversed entirely by the next man. The throat-distorting obligation to study Arabic called for rather intimate association with educated Arabs, whose main obsession was fear of the Zionist Jews. The things they said against the Jews turned me pro-Zionist. So I cautiously made the acquaintance of some gentlemen with gold-rimmed spectacles, and the things they said about the Arabs set me to sympathizing with the sons of Ishmael again.

In the midst of that predicament I met Jimgrim–Major James Schuyler Grim, to give him his full title, although hardly any one ever called him by it. After that, bewilderment began to cease as, under his amused, painstaking fingers, thread after thread of the involved gnarl of plots and politics betrayed its course.

However, first I must tell how I met him. There is an American Colony in Jerusalem–a community concern that runs a one-price store, and is even more savagely criticized than the British Administration, as is only natural. The story of what they did in the war is a three-year epic. You can’t be “epic” and not make enemies.

A Chicago Jew assured me they were swine and horse-thieves. But I learned that the Yemen Jews prayed for them–first prayer–every Sabbath of the year, calling down blessings on their heads for charitable service rendered.

One hardly goes all the way to Palestine to meet Americans; but a journalist can’t afford to be willfully ignorant. A British official assured me they were “good blokes” and an Armenian told me they could skin fleas for their hides and tallow; but the Armenian was wearing a good suit, and eating good food, which he admitted had been given to him by the American Colony. He was bitter with them because they had refused to cash a draft on Mosul, drawn on a bank that had ceased to exist.

It seemed a good idea to call on the American Colony, at their store near the Jaffa Gate, and it turned out to be a very clean spot in a dirty city. I taxed their generosity, and sat for hours on a ten-thousand-dollar pile of Asian rugs behind the store; and, whatever I have missed and lost, or squandered, at least I know their story and can keep it until the proper time.

Of course, you have to allow for point of view, just as the mariner allows for variation and deviation; but when they inferred that most of the constructive good that has come to the Near East in the last fifty years has been American, they spoke with the authority of men who have lived on the spot and watched it happen.

“You see, the Americans who have come here haven’t set up governments. They’ve opened schools and colleges. They’ve poured in education, and taken nothing. Then there are thousands of Arabs, living in hovels because there’s nothing better, who have been to America and brought back memories with them. All that accounts for the desire for an American mandate–which would be a very bad thing, though, because the moment we set up a government we would lose our chance to be disinterested. The country is better off under any other mandate, provided it gives Americans the right to teach without ruling. America’s mission is educational. There’s an American, though, who might seem to prove the contrary. Do you see him?”

There were two Arabs in the room, talking in low tones over by the window. I could imagine the smaller of the two as a peddler of lace and filigree-silver in the States, who had taken out papers for the sake of privilege and returned full of notions to exploit his motherland. But the tall one–never. He was a Bedouin, if ever a son of the desert breathed. If he had visited the States, then he had come back as unchanged as gold out of an acid bath; and as for being born there–

“That little beady-eyed, rat-faced fellow may be an American,” I said. “In fact, of course he is, since you say so. But as for being up to any good–”

“You’re mistaken. You’re looking at the wrong man. Observe the other one.”

I was more than ever sure I was not mistaken. Stately gesture, dignity, complexion, attitude–to say nothing of his Bedouin array and the steadiness with which he kept his dark eyes fixed on the smaller man he was talking to, had laid the stamp of the desert on the taller man from head to heel.

“That tall man is an American officer in the British army. Doesn’t look the part, eh? They say he was the first American to be granted a commission without any pretence of his being a Canadian. They accepted him as an American. It was a case of that or nothing. Lived here for years, and knew the country so well that they felt they had to have him on his own terms.”

You can believe anything in Jerusalem after you have been in the place a week or two, so, seeing who my informant was, I swallowed the fact. But it was a marvel. It seemed even greater when the man strolled out, pausing to salute my host with the solemn politeness that warfare with the desert breeds. You could not imagine that at Ellis Island, or on Broadway–even on the stage. It was too untheatrical to be acting; too individual to be imitation; too unselfconscious to have been acquired. I hazarded a guess.

“A red man, then. Carlisle for education. Swallowed again by the first desert he stayed in for more than a week.”

“Wrong. His name is Grim. Sounds like Scandinavian ancestry, on one side. James Schuyler Grim–Dutch, then, on the other; and some English. Ten generations in the States at any rate. He can tell you all about this country. Why not call on him?”

It did not need much intelligence to agree to that suggestion; but the British military take their code with them to the uttermost ends of earth, behind which they wonder why so many folks with different codes, or none, dislike them.

“Write me an introduction,” I said.

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