Jimgrim - Talbot Mundy - ebook

Jimgrim ebook

Talbot Mundy

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Opis

There is a good belief that journalists can do exactly as they like and whenever they like. The fun with purple eyes was in Chicago. My passport describes me as a journalist. My employer said, „Go to Jerusalem,” and I went, it was in 1920. I was there several times before the start of World War II, when the Turks were in control. Therefore, I knew about the bugs and the stench of the citadel moose; pre-war price of camels; it is enough Arabic to speak freely and sufficiently of the Old Testament and the Qur’an to guess Arabic motives, which important words and things like lies.

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Liczba stron: 575

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Contents

PART 1.

THE REINCARNATED

CHAPTER 1 “As the light is against the darkness, so are you and I against each other.”

CHAPTER 2 “I am an old man, Jimgrim. Help me.”

CHAPTER 3 “I am always Baltis.”

CHAPTER 4 “I’ll take this case.”

CHAPTER 5 “Imagine what would happen if—”

CHAPTER 6 “How many wives had Solomon?”

CHAPTER 7 “No longer Number Seventeen?”

CHAPTER 8 “Am sadist. Masochism to the devil!”

CHAPTER 9 “Emperor Jimgrim—how does that sound?”

CHAPTER 10 “Dorje! Dorje!”

CHAPTER 11 “Stole my name. Says she is Queen of Sheba, I am.”

CHAPTER 12 “Delphic-oracle-ly minded babu spilling noncommittal verb sap.”

CHAPTER 13 “I have ordered sandwiches and claret.”

PART 2.

MESSIAH OF TINSEL

CHAPTER 14 “Is it the key to Dorje’s cipher?”

CHAPTER 15 “The Lord Dorje, the Daring—the King of the World!”

CHAPTER 16 “Can’t make brain empty. Can’t listen.”

CHAPTER 17 “Harlem!”

CHAPTER 18 “Eight-six-four-one-nine-seven-five-three-two.”

CHAPTER 19 “So I will bring on all of us a tragedy, unless—”

CHAPTER 20 “It’s only being caught off-stage that actually hurts.”

CHAPTER 21 “What has our babu done to them, I wonder?”

CHAPTER 22 “Play this as you would your last ten dollars in a poker game!”

CHAPTER 23 “Now! Go the limit!”

CHAPTER 24 “Gad, what a team she’d have made with her twin!”

CHAPTER 25 “People don’t want problems. They want answers. And they want the answers wrong, I tell you!”

CHAPTER 26 “Even Lenin never had the nerve to blow his horn as loud as that!”

CHAPTER 27 “Deify me, and I bu’st. But I bu’st you also!”

CHAPTER 28 “In indelible ink?”

CHAPTER 29 “But you must kill him!”

CHAPTER 30 “Dorje is in Delhi!”

CHAPTER 31 “Grim seems to have dug up someone to ballyhoo him.”

CHAPTER 32 “Dorje!”

CHAPTER 33 “Here is darkness. Curse me, sahib!”

CHAPTER 34 “I will bet you pounds Egyptian fifty that the Jewess overboils the eggs!”

PART 3.

THE UNCROWNED

CHAPTER 35 “She is a happening— a tragedy exuded from the womb of ruin.”

CHAPTER 36 “I will not be vairee jealous.”

CHAPTER 37 “Henri—he has genius.”

CHAPTER 38 “A leader without a plan is more exciting than a ‘plane without a rudder.”

CHAPTER 39 “There’s nothing you would ask me, that I wouldn’t do.”

CHAPTER 40 “Wreck his bug’s nest. Him we kill last.”

CHAPTER 41 “Good-bye, old man.”

PART 1.

THE REINCARNATED

CHAPTER 1

“As the light is against the darkness, so are you and I against each other.”

It was one of those sun-drunken days in spring for which the South of France is famous. There was the usual nondescript crowd at Notre Dame de la Garde–tourists, beggars, women selling candles and rosaries–a few citizens of Marseilles in love with the view–a few youngsters in love with each other. In the distance the Chateau d’If stood grimly silent in a sapphire sea. The funicular railway kept disgorging passengers, too lazy or too wise to make the climb on foot, and I envied them. I never could see why Jeff Ramsden will insist on walking when there are easier ways to get there. Churches don’t particularly interest me, and I would rather look at Times Square on a warm night than at all the views in Europe. I was wishing myself on a chair at a cafe window watching the crowd in the Canabière, although the street is overrated and the beer is beastly. But it is no use arguing with Jeff.

He is a tank of a man–one-eighth of a metric ton of bone and muscle that can go through anything on earth and come out mildly wondering why other people got excited.

James Schuyler Grim was studying the view. I don’t know why. He stood on the steps of the church of Notre Dame de la Garde–in a tweed suit and a tourist hat–looking like fifteen frontiers and a wind howling over the snow. When you looked at Grim you felt you’d got to go and buy a ticket to somewhere comfortless, where unexpected but important things are bound to happen. And they do.

No matter which way Grim was looking, if anything happened within the range of his vision you might bet your boots Grim saw it. There are two booths, one on each side of the church door, in which sisters of the sacred order that has charge of the church sell souvenirs and candles. Grim was talking to one of the sisters, making jokes that she was trying to pretend she didn’t understand, and trying not to laugh at, when he suddenly turned away from her and glanced toward the platform at the top of the funicular railway, where an iron railing protects the curious tourist from the fate he probably deserves. Grim moved so quickly that Jeff and I followed him down three steps and gazed in the same direction. It was worth watching–if you like that kind of thing.

A man in a pepper-and-salt suit, not exactly shabby, but looking as if he had slept in it, and wearing a brown derby hat that looked as if he might have found it in an ash-can, suddenly jumped as if shot. He was lean; he had an Adam’s apple as big as your fist and a collar two sizes too large; his gestures were pantomimic, and he seemed scared out of his wits. What seemed to have frightened him was an Arab, about sixty years of age, wearing a sea-captain’s blue jacket with three gold stripes on the sleeve, who had evidently come toiling up the steps as we had done, and who had paused on the top step but one.

The pepper-and-salt man seemed to try to run three ways at once. He actually did start in our direction, as if the church door suggested sanctuary; but either he thought better of it or else his lean legs got the better of his brain. At any rate, he vaulted the iron railing; and before a sergeant de ville and two uniformed employees of the funicular railway could lift a finger to prevent him he jumped. I don’t know how many hundred feet it is from top to bottom; plenty, at any rate. The sergeant de ville and the other two leaned over to watch, and their shrug when he hit the roof of the descending car and bounced off was as eloquent as things French usually are; it is always easier for me to understand their shoulders than the things they say. The sister in the booth leaned as far as she could over her counter to ask Grim what had happened. A woman fainted. Almost everybody else rushed to the railing to witness a horror that they would have paid money not to see if they had stopped to think a minute. But the Arab sea-dog smiled and came straight on toward the church door.

We three stood back to let him pass, and I noticed that he eyed Grim rather strangely, as if he half-recognized him, but he said nothing. He stopped to buy a full-sized candle from one of the sisters, and with that in his hand he strode in. Then Grim spoke, sideways, through the corner of his mouth, his lips not moving.

“Recognize him, Jeff?”

“Yahudi. Haroun ben Yahudi.”

“That was his vessel below in the harbor–the lateen rig by the old wharf–did you see it?”

Grim followed him into the church. We followed Grim. It is a strange scene in there–stranger then because that sea-scarred Moslem lighted his fat wax candle and set it on the iron bracket in front of the Virgin’s statue along with thirty or forty others already burning there. From the roof-beams and against the walls hang scores of marvelously fashioned models of ships, set there by sailor-men of fifty generations; as you look upward at them they seem to be afloat in air. And on the walls are countless slabs set up by mariners acknowledging indebtedness to Notre Dame de la Garde for perils on the high seas by her favor overcome. As I think I said, I don’t as a rule care much for churches; but that one got me by the throat; it got Jeff too, who is a sentimental giant. I don’t know whether it got Grim; he was watching the Arab. It got the Arab harder than it did me.

He was evidently not a convert to the Christian faith. His grim face with the windy, deep-set eyes seemed scornful of much that he saw, and when a priest went by I thought scorn changed to anger. He would have spat, but remembered his manners. He ignored the altar and he made no genuflections; he seemed rather to stiffen himself, as if pride obliged that. Nevertheless, there was reverence in him for something that he felt, though his eyes might not see it, and one could almost share the emotion with him, it was so heartfelt, simple and intense. He showed no surprise when Grim touched his elbow.

“Hey, you, Jimgrim,” he remarked in English, “you are like the storms of these seas. There is no knowing whence you will blow next; and there are always shoals to leeward. What now?”

“Pleasant voyage?”

“Now, by Allah’s mercy, some men might have thought so–such as like tales at a fireside. But I made my landfall. I suppose you are one more difficulty. I will overcome you also.”

He strode past us, bought another candle at the church door, came back, lighted it and stuck it on the bracket near the first one.

“I will overcome you also, Jimgrim. What now?”

“Why pick on me?” Grim asked him.

“Flint picks on steel, and steel on flint,” said Haroun ben Yahudi.

Grim laughed. “Maybe I’d better buy some candles. I saw you overcome that other poor devil just now. You did that very neatly.”

“That one was afraid,” said Haroun.

“I am not afraid.”

“Then why candles?”

“Mash-allah! Jimgrim, for a wise one you ask foolish questions. For a thousand–aye, two thousand years, and longer, seamen have known the spirit of this place. Look around you. Do you think that none but Christians make vows? Wallah-hi! And are only Christian vows on record? In the Name of Names I ask you, does a compass only work for Christians? Does the North Star change its station in the sky when Moslems set their course? I know a Moslem keel or two that avoided shoals where fish are spawning in the hulks of broken Christian ships.”

“You and I were friends once,” Grim said quietly.

“Good friends. And I wonder at the way of the Almighty. He, whose Prophet wrote in plain words all the length and breadth of wisdom, leaving nothing but its depth to be plumbed by our understanding, did a strange thing, Jimgrim, when He set you on one side and me on the other. Now, were you on my side you might be a very great one, Jimgrim. And I tell you, the great in this life become greater in the next, where many, who thought they knew what greatness is, are learning otherwise–too late!”

“Who said I’m against you?” Grim asked.

“I did. As the light is against the darkness, so are you and I against each other. And God pity me, I wonder at His ways, who brought this thing to pass; because you are another whom fear is afraid of, and such men are too few.”

Then, at last, he acknowledged Jeff’s existence. Their eyes met and Jeff smiled at him, showing short teeth in an iron jaw. You can tell from a glance at Jeff that if he lets his beard grow three days it will look like chiseled bronze; the substance of a beard seems always there, although he blunts good razors on its shadow.

“What port did you clear from?” Jeff asked, for the sake of politeness. But when Jeff is trying to be polite he tries too hard. He is only lamblike when he expects to have to use his muscles presently on several times his weight of adversaries.

“Basra.” But Haroun dismissed that fact as unimportant, from which I gathered either that it had extreme significance or he was lying. “Bull ram! Born on the cusp of Aries and Taurus! How does Jimgrim ease your sheets when the gusts of anger glow, I wonder? Lo, a bull’s heart in a mountain’s hide –a ram’s eye for a distance–and a ram’s nose for an enemy! I would that you, also, were on my side. Who is this one?”

The sensation was of being suddenly stripped naked by a connoisseur in anthropology. I was conscious of every weakness I possess–and of Jeff’s tremendous loyalty–and of Grim’s mercurial alertness. It was not good.

“Excuse me,” said Grim. “Major Robert Crosby–Captain Haroun ben Yahudi.”

“One of us,” Jeff added. It was the first time he had mentioned that in my presence. I felt better.

The old sea-dog eyed me for a moment longer as if he were studying shoals and tides and changing winds. Then he turned to Grim: “I, too, have shipped such. My mate–I found him in a Baghdad brothel, drunk and sickening from hunger. And I have a seaman whom I took off the beach at Kuwait. Some do well–some otherwise. I shipped that weakling whom you saw just now scared to hell. Not that this is as that one. This one–Crosby do you say his name is?–is of the sort that terror stiffens, though it makes him stupid. Major, you said? He is young for his rank. They promote babies nowadays; and what airs they give themselves! Born, unless my eyes deceive me, under Libra. Too much judgment–ever weighing this with that and hesitating lest he put the wrong foot foremost. However; it is no light matter for two such men as you to find a third one. Were not two of you enough–aye, two too many?”

“Why did you ship that scareling?” Grim retorted.

“Why are you against me, Jimgrim? Why did you come here looking for me? Hay-yeh, when the vultures gather in the sky I know their purpose.”

“You were the last man I was thinking of,” Grim answered.

“Yeh-yeh–you were thinking of life and death; and of why we come into the world, and why we leave it. And then I came. I, also, was thinking the same thoughts. Then I saw you. And I said to myself, as doubtless you said also: The Almighty does not set two such men by chance upon the self-same threshold of the Life to Come! Therefore, before one or other of us dies–”

It was the first time I had ever seen Jeff go into action. He was quicker than a lightweight; it was incredible that he could show such speed, with all that bulk and so much Herculean muscle. The eye hardly followed him. He seized the Arab’s right wrist in his left hand, jerked it backward, and a big, broad-bladed sheath-knife clattered on the stone floor.

“Not here, Haroun–and not yet!”

“Very decent of you, Haroun, to have given warning,” Grim remarked. He picked up the knife and Jeff returned it to its owner, who thrust it back into the sheath under his blue serge jacket.

I led the way out and the three of us stood on the concrete paving below the church steps, where we could just see the two lateen-rigged masts of Haroun’s ship. Beyond it, nearly in mid-harbor, a French warship lay to her mooring–one of those old-fashioned cruisers with funnels in pairs spaced wide apart.

“You have the right of it,” said Haroun. “That was neither time nor place. Doubtless God was displeased by the sacrilege, or else the knife had struck home. That would have saved you, Jimgrim, from a worse fate. Dorje–”*

“Oh, are you taking Dorje’s orders?”

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