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    Chapter 29

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    Chapter 29
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    If the traveller passed up the narrow, hilly street which leads from the Mosque to Great Sok of Tangier, and turned abruptly to the right as though the Kasbah were his objective, he would have found on his left a high white wall pierced only by a massive gate with bronze-green hinges.

    Behind the wall was an untidy garden and a broken stone fountain, sufficiently repaired by an unskilful European workman to allow a feeble jet of water to jerk spasmodically in the air before it fell into a black basin, where, amidst the rubbish of years, swam languid gold-fish.

    The house of Sadi Hafiz stood at right angles to the wall, an ugly, lime-washed barn boasting a verandah and a stoep where, when the weather was warm, Sadi Hafiz himself sat in a faded drawing-room chair drinking mint tea and smoking. He was a tall, pale Moor with plump cheeks and a smear of beard, and he had the appearance at all times of being half-awake. He sat one morning, a cigarette drooping from his full underlip, his dull eyes fixed upon a wilted geranium in the centre of the court.

    The Shereef Sadi Hafiz was a man who had held many positions of trust under many governments, but had not held them for long. He had served two sultans and four pretenders, had been the confidential agent of six European and one American consulates and in turn had robbed or betrayed them all. A linguist of ability, a known friend of the brown-legged men who carried their rifles into Tangier whenever they came shopping, his influence reached into strange and distant places, and he was a concession-monger without equal.

    There came to him at the sunset hour a little man named Colport, who was the accredited agent in Tangier of Mr. Ralph Hamon's companies.

    "Good evening--have a drink," grunted the shereef in English. "Did you get any reply to your cable?"

    "He says the quarter's allowance is not due for a month," said Colport and the Moor spat contemptuously.

    "Did he spend twenty pesetas to cable that? Allah! If it is not due for twenty months I need money now, Colport. Is he coming?"

    "I don't know; he didn't say."

    The Moor looked at him from under his tired eyelids.

    "Is Lydia coming with him? Of course! For five years she has been coming, and for five years she cannot. I am tired of Hamon. He treats me worse than Israel Hassim the Jew. I give him companies, he makes millions and all I see is the allowance. Sha! What did I do for Hamon years ago? Ask him that!"

    Colport listened philosophically. Sadi was for ever complaining, for ever hinting of mysterious services; he never went further than to hint.

    "He would see me in the Kasbah, chained by the leg and dying for a centimo measure of water. And I have two new wonders for him--a trace of silver in the hills! Ah ha, that makes your eyes sparkle. There are fifty million pesetas in that concession alone. Who else could find such beauties but the Shereef? I am the most powerful man in Morocco--greater than a basha--greater than the Sultan...."

    He grumbled on and Colport waited for his opportunity. It came at last.

    "Mr. Hamon says he will let you have your quarter's allowance and five hundred sterling. But you must send at once ... wait."

    He fished out the cablegram from his pocket and smoothed it on his knee.

    "'Tell Sadi I must have another Ali Hassan'--what does that mean, Sadi?"

    Sadi's eyes were wide open now, his tobacco-stained fingers were caressing his hairy chin.

    "He is in trouble," he said slowly. "I thought he was. Ali Hassans do not grow on every cactus bush, Colport."

    He was silent for a long time, thinking, and his thoughts were not pleasant. After a while he said:

    "Cable to him that it will cost a thousand," he said. "Bring the money to me in the evening of to-morrow. Even then ... but I will see."

    He clapped his hands lazily and to the slave girl who came:

    "Bring tea, you black beast," he said pleasantly.

    He paid Colport the unusual honour of walking with him to the gate, and then he went back to his dingy chair and sat, elbow on knee, chin in hand, until the call to prayer sent him to his perfunctory devotions.

    He rose stiffly from his knees and called to the man who was his scribe and valet.

    "Do you know Ahmet, the mule driver?"

    "Yes, Excellency. He is the man that killed the money changer, and some say he robbed another Jew and threw him down a well. He is a bad man."

    "Does he speak English?"

    "Spanish and English, they say. He was a guide at Casa Blanca, but he stole from a woman and was flogged."

    Sadi inclined his head.

    "He must be my Ali Hassan," he said. "Go into the low houses by the beach. If he is drunk leave him, for I do not wish the French police to see him. If he is sober, let him come to me at the twelfth hour."

    Tangier's one striking clock was chiming midnight when the servant admitted the burly figure of the mule man.

    "Peace on this house and may God give you happy dreams!" he said, when the white-robed figure of the shereef confronted him in the moonlight.

    "Ahmet, you have been to England?"

    They stood in the centre of the courtyard, away from the ears that listened at three lattice-covered windows.

    "Yes, Shereef, many times on the mule ships when the War was on."

    "Go now, Ahmet. There is a man who needs you. Remember that I saved you from death twice. Twice, when the rope was round your neck, I, the Shereef Sadi of Ben-Aza, pleaded to the basha and saved you. There will be nobody to save you in England if you are a fool. Come to me to-morrow and I will give you a letter."
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