As The Black Shadow Mounted In The Eastern Sky,[FN#17] I Turned Off The
Road, And Was Suddenly Saluted By A Figure Rising From A Little Hollow
With An "As' Salamu 'alaykum" Of Truly Arab Sound.[FN#18] I Looked At
The Speaker For A Moment Without Recognising Him.
He then advanced with
voluble expressions of joy, invited me to sup, seized
[P.152]my camel's halter without waiting for an answer, "nakh'd[FN#19]"
it (i.e. forced it to kneel), led me hurriedly to a carpet spread in a
sandy hollow, pulled off my slippers, gave me cold water for ablution,
told me that he had mistaken me at a distance for a "Sherif" (or
Prince) of the Arabs, but was delighted to find himself in error; and
urged me to hurry over ablution, otherwise that night would come on
before we could say our prayers. It was Mohammed al-Basyuni, the Meccan
boy of whom I had bought my pilgrim-garb at Cairo. There I had refused
his companionship, but here for reasons of his own-one of them was an
utter want of money,- he would take no excuse. When he prayed, he stood
behind me,[FN#20] thereby proving pliancy of conscience, for he
suspected me from the first of being at least a heretic.
After prayer he lighted a pipe, and immediately placed the snake-like
tube in my hand; this is an argument which the tired traveller can
rarely resist. He then began to rummage my saddle-bags; he drew forth
stores of provisions, rolls, water-melons, boiled eggs, and dates, and
whilst lighting the fire and boiling the coffee, he managed to
distribute his own stock, which was neither plentiful nor first-rate,
to the camel-men.
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