The King in Check - Talbot Mundy - ebook

The King in Check ebook

Talbot Mundy

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Opis

The one who invented the chess, understood the world’s works. He acknowledged the fact and founded the game on him, resulting in his game so popular. And the fact that he clearly recognized is that the king does not matter if your side is a victory. You can leave your king in your corner so you can entertain yourself. But at the very moment when you start to lose your figure, your king becomes a source of anxiety.

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Liczba stron: 260

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Contents

CHAPTER 1 “I’ll make one to give this Faisal boy a hoist”

CHAPTER 2 “Atcha, Jimgrim sahib! Atcha!”

CHAPTER 3 “Hum Dekta hai”

CHAPTER 4 “I call this awful!”

CHAPTER 5 “Nobody will know, no bouquets”

CHAPTER 6 “Better the evil that we know…”

CHAPTER 7 “You talk like a madman!”

CHAPTER 8 “He’ll forgive anyone who brings him whiskey.”

CHAPTER 9 “The rest will be simple!”

CHAPTER 10 “You made a bad break that time”

CHAPTER 11 “They are all right!”

CHAPTER 12 “Start something before they’re ready for it!”

CHAPTER 13 “Bismillah! What a mercy that I met you!”

CHAPTER 14 “You’ll be a virgin victim!”

CHAPTER 15 “Catch the Algies napping and kick hell out of ‘em!”

CHAPTER 1. “I’ll make one to give this Faisal boy a hoist”

Whoever invented chess understood the world’s works as some men know clocks and watches. He recognized a fact and based a game on it, with the result that his game endures. And what he clearly recognized was this: That no king matters much as long as your side is playing a winning game. You can leave your king in his corner then to amuse himself in dignified unimportance. But the minute you begin to lose, your king becomes a source of anxiety.

In what is called real life (which is only a great game, although a mighty good one) it makes no difference what you call your king. Call him Pope if you want to, or President, or Chairman. He grows in importance in proportion as the other side develops the attack. You’ve got to keep your symbol of authority protected or you lose.

Nevertheless, your game is not lost as long as your king can move. That’s why the men who want to hurry up and start a new political era imprison kings and cut their heads off. With no head on his shoulders your king can only move in the direction of the cemetery, which is over the line and doesn’t count.

I love a good fight, and have been told I ought to be ashamed of it. I’ve noticed, though, that the folk who propose to elevate my morals fight just as hard, and less cleanly, with their tongue than some of us do with our fists and sinews. I’m told, too, quite frequently that as an American I ought to be ashamed of fighting for a king. Dear old ladies of both sexes have assured me that it isn’t moral to give aid and comfort to a gallant gentleman – a godless Mohammedan, too; which makes it much worse – who is striving gamely and without malice to keep his given word and save his country.

But if you’ve got all you want, do you know of any better fun than lending a hand while some man you happen to like gets his? I don’t. Of course, some fellows want too much, and it’s bad manners as well as waste of time to inflict your opinion on them. But given a reasonable purpose and a friend who needs your assistance, is there any better sport on earth than risking your own neck to help him put it over?

Walk wide of the man and particularly of the woman, who makes a noise about lining your pocket or improving your condition. An altruist is my friend James Schuyler Grim, but he makes less noise than a panther on a dark night; and I never knew a man less given to persuading you. He has one purpose, but almost never talks about it. It’s a sure bet that if we hadn’t struck up a close friendship, sounding each other out carefully as opportunity occurred, I would have been in the dark about it until this minute.

All the news of Asia from Alexandretta to the Persian Gulf and from Northern Turkestan to South Arabia reaches Grim’s ears sooner or later. He earns his bread and butter knitting all that mess of cross-grained information into one intelligible pattern; after which he interprets it and acts suddenly without advance notices.

Time and again, lone-handed, he has done better than an army corps, by playing chief against chief in a land where the only law is individual interpretation of the Koran.

But it wasn’t until our rescue of Jeremy Ross from near Abu Kem, that I ever heard Grim come out openly and admit that he was working to establish Faisal,* third son of the King of Mecca, as king of just as many Arabs as might care to have him over them. That was the cat he had been keeping in a bag for seven years.

Right down to the minute when Grim, Jeremy and I sat down with Bin Saud the Avenger on a stricken field at Abu Kem, and Grim and Jeremy played their hands so cleverly that the Avenger was made, unwitting guardian of Jeremy’s secret gold-mine, and Faisal’s open and sworn supporter in the bargain, the heart of Grim’s purpose continued to be a mystery even to me; and I have been as intimate with him as any man.

He doles out what he has in mind as grudgingly as any Scot spends the shillings in his purse. But the Scots are generous when they have to be, and so is Grim. There being nothing else for it on that occasion, he spilled the beans, the whole beans, and nothing but the beans. Having admitted us two to his secret, he dilated on it all the way back to Jerusalem, telling us all he knew of Faisal (which would fill a book), and growing almost lyrical at times as he related incidents in proof of his contention that Faisal, lineal descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, is the “whitest” Arab and most gallant leader of his race since Saladin.*

Knowing Grim and how carefully suppressed his enthusiasm usually is, I couldn’t help being fired by all he said on that occasion.

And as for Jeremy, well – it was like meat and drink to him. You meet men more or less like Jeremy Ross in any of earth’s wild places, although you rarely meet his equal for audacity, irreverence and riotous good-fellowship. He isn’t the only Australian by a long shot who upholds Australia by fist and boast and astounding gallantry, yet stays away from home. You couldn’t fix Jeremy with concrete; he’d find some means of bursting any mould.

He had been too long lost in the heart of Arabia for anything except the thought of Sydney Bluffs and the homesteads that lie beyond to tempt him for the first few days.

“You fellers come with me,” he insisted. “You chuck the Army, Grim, and I’ll show you a country where the cows have to bend their backs to let the sun go down. Ha-ha! Show you women too – red-lipped girls in sun-bonnets, that’ll look good after the splay-footed crows you see out here. Tell you what: We’ll pick up the Orient boat at Port Said – no P. and O. for me; I’m a passenger aboard ship, not a horrible example! – and make a wake for the Bull’s Kid. Murder! Won’t the scoff† taste good!

“We’ll hit the Bull’s Kid hard for about a week – mix it with the fellers in from way back – you know – dry-blowers,* pearlers,† spending it easy – handing their money to Bessie behind the bar and restless because she makes it last too long; watch them a while and get in touch with all that’s happening; then flit out of Sydney like bats out of hell and hump blue‡ – eh?”

“Something’ll turn up; it always does. I’ve got money in the bank – about, two thousand here in gold dust with me, – and if what you say’s true, Grim, about me still being a trooper, then the Army owes me three years’ back pay, and I’ll have it or go to Buckingham Palace and tear off a piece of the King! We’re capitalists, by Jupiter! Besides, you fellers agreed that if I shut down the mine at Abu Kem you’d join me and we’d be Grim, Ramsden and Ross.”

“I’ll keep the bargain if you hold me to it when the time comes,” Grim answered.

“You bet I’ll hold you to it! Rammy here, and you and I could trade the chosen people off the map between us. We’re a combination. What’s time got to do with it?”

“We’ve got to use your mine,” Grim answered.

“I’m game. But let’s see Australia first.”

“Suppose we fix up your discharge, and you go home,” Grim suggested. “Come back when you’ve had a vacation, and by that time Ramsden and I will have done what’s possible for Faisal. He’s in Damascus now, but the French have got him backed into a corner. No money – not much ammunition – French propaganda undermining the allegiance of his men – time working against him, and nothing to do but wait.”

“What in hell have the French got to do with it?”

“They want Syria. They’ve got the coast towns now. They mean to have Damascus; and if they can catch Faisal and jail him to keep him out of mischief they will.”

“But damn it! Didn’t they promise the Arabs that Faisal should be King of Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and all that?”

“They did. The Allies all promised, France included. But since the Armistice the British have made a present of Palestine to the Jews, and the French have demanded Syria for themselves. The British are pro-Faisal, but the French don’t want him anywhere except dead or in jail. They know they’ve given him and the Arabs a raw deal; and they seem to think the simplest way out is to blacken Faisal’s character and ditch him. If the French once catch him in Damascus he’s done for and the Arab cause is lost.”

“Why lost?” demanded Jeremy. “There are plenty more Arabs.”

“But only one Faisal. He’s the only man who can unite them all.”

“I know a chance for him,” said Jeremy. “Let him come with us three to Australia. There are thousands of fellers there who fought alongside him and don’t care a damn for the French. They’ll raise all the hell there is before they’ll see him ditched.”

“Uh-huh! London’s the place for him,” Grim answered. “The British like him, and they’re ashamed of the way he’s been treated. They’ll give him Mesopotamia. Baghdad’s the old Arab capital, and that’ll do for a beginning; after that it’s up to the Arabs themselves.”

“Well? Where does my gold mine come in?” Jeremy asked.

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