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    Chapter 44

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    Chapter 44
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    Jim Morlake had disappeared. He had been seen neither at his flat nor at the restaurant he affected when he was in London. His car had been found outside the door of the garage where it was usually kept when in London. It was covered with mud, for the night had been wet, and showed evidence of hard driving, but there was no note nor any word of instructions as to its disposal.

    Binger had not seen him, and Mahmet the Moor presented a stolid unintelligent face to the questioners who came to him, and disclaimed all knowledge of his master. The afternoon newspapers printed prominently a request to Mr. James Morlake to report himself to the nearest police station, but this produced no result.

    "Always in trouble, always in trouble!" groaned Binger. "I can't understand why Mr. Morlake don't take helementary precautions."

    Mahmet did not answer. If his knowledge of English was slight, his understanding of Binger's English was negligible.

    "You're a man of the world, Mahmet!" continued Binger, who liked nothing better than to address an audience that could not under any circumstances protest or interrupt him, "and I'm a man of the world, Mahmet. We know young gentlemen are a bit eccentric, but this is going beyond a joke. Of course, Mr. Morlake is a foreigner, so to speak, but he's a Hanglo-Saxon, Mahmet, and Hanglo-Saxons, like you and me, don't go dodging off to nowhere without telling nobody."

    That great Anglo-Saxon, Mahmet Ali, concealed a yawn politely and listened with stolid patience to a further exposition on the thoughtlessness of employers. When Mr. Binger had talked himself to a standstill, Mahmet said:

    "I go way a bit."

    "What you are trying to say is: 'I'm going hout,'" said Binger. "I wonder you don't try to learn the English language. I'm willing to give you an hour a day for heducational purposes."

    "I go now?" said Mahmet, and Binger, in his lordly way, gave him leave.

    Mahmet went to the little room where he slept, took off his white jallab and dressed himself in a ready-made European suit, which turned him from something that was picturesque to a nondescript weed. He travelled on the top of a bus eastward, and did not descend until he had reached dockland. Up a side street was a small, dingy-looking establishment that had once been a bar, which had lost its licence owing to the misguided efforts of the proprietor, who augmented his income by conducting a betting business. It was now a home, in the sense that here strange coloured folk stranded in London could buy indifferent coffee and could sleep in a cell a little bigger than an egg-box on payment of a sum which would sustain them in comfort in their own countries for a week.

    Mahmet went into the smoky room which served as lounge and card-room. Half-a-dozen dusky-skinned men were playing cards, and near one of these Mahmet saw a compatriot and, beckoning to him, they retired to an empty alcove at the far end of the room.

    "My good man has gone," said Mahmet without preliminary. "Will you write to your uncle in Casa Blanca and tell him to buy four mules, also that he send a message to the Shereef El Zuy at Tetuan, telling him to be with the mules near the lighthouse at El Spartel on the twelfth day of this month? You have heard no more?"

    His companion, a tall, loose-made Moor, his face disfigured by the ravages of smallpox, had indeed much to tell.

    "There is trouble in the Angera country, and there has been fighting. I think the Sultan's soldiers will be defeated. Sadi Hafiz is supposed to be with the Angera people, and it is true that they are making great preparations at his house in the hills. He is sending serving women there. Now that is strange, for Sadi has never taken servants to this place."

    Mahmet interrupted him.

    "You're an old man," he said contemptuously. "You have told me that story twice, and that is the way of old men."

    There were other items of gossip to be picked up, but Mahmet did not stop either to hear the latest scandal about the Basha's favourite wife, or the peculations of the Grand Wazir. He hurried back to the flat, made a bundle of his clothes, tying his complete wardrobe in a pillow case. When Binger came the next morning there was no sign of Mahmet, and though the indignant valet made a complete inventory of the contents of the flat, he discovered, to his annoyance, that nothing was missing.
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