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Up to thirty-two years of age David Hyam, of the village of Framley, in
Staffordshire, was not a man of surprises. With enough of this world's
goods to give him comfort of body and suave gravity of manner, the figure
he cut was becoming to his Quaker origin and profession. No one suspected
the dynamic possibilities of his nature till a momentous day in August,
in the middle Victorian period, when news from Bristol came that an uncle
in chocolate had died and left him the third of a large fortune, without
condition or proviso.
This was of a Friday, and on the Saturday following David did his first
startling act--he offered marriage to Hope Marlowe, the only Quaker girl
in Framley who had ever dared to discard the poke bonnet even for a day,
and who had been publicly reproved for laughing in meeting--for Mistress
Hope had a curious, albeit demure and suggestive, sense of humour; she
was, in truth, a kind of sacred minuet in grey. Hope had promptly
accepted David, at the same time taunting him softly with the fact that
he had recklessly declared he would never marry, even saying profanely
that upon his word and honour he never would! She repeated to him what
his own mother once replied to his audacious worldly protests:
"If thee say thee will never, never, never do a thing, thee will some day
surely do it."
Then, seeing that David was a bit chagrined, Hope slipped one hand into
his, drew him back within the door, lifted the shovel hat off his
forehead, and whispered with a coquetry unworthy a Quaker maid:
"But thee did not say, friend David, thee would never, never, never smite
thy friend on both cheeks after she had flouted thee."
Having smitten her on both cheeks, after the manner of foolish men, David
gravely got him to his home and to a sound sleep that night. Next
morning, the remembrance of the pleasant smiting roused him to an
outwardly sedate and inwardly vainglorious courage. Going with steady
steps to the Friends' meeting-house at the appointed time, the Spirit
moved him, after a decorous pause, to announce his intended marriage to
the prettiest Quaker in Framley, even the maid who had shocked the
community's sense of decorum and had been written down a rebel--though
these things he did not say.
From the recesses of her poke bonnet Hope watched the effect of David's
words upon the meeting; but when the elders turned and looked at her, as
became her judges before the Lord, her eyes dropped; also her heart
thumped so hard she could hear it; and in the silence that followed it
seemed to beat time to the words like the pendulum of a clock: "Fear
not-Love on! Fear not--Love on!" But the heart beat faster still, the
eyes came up quickly, and the face flushed a deep, excited red when
David, rising again, said that, with the consent of the community--a
consent which his voice subtly insisted upon--he would take a long
journey into the Holy Land, into Syria, travelling to Baalbec and
Damascus, and even beyond as far as the desolate city of Palmyra; and
then, afterwards, into Egypt, where Joseph and the sons of Israel were
captive aforetime. He would fain visit the Red Sea, and likewise confer
with the Coptic Christians in Egypt, "of whom thee and me have read to
our comfort," he added piously, looking at friend Fairley, the oldest and
heretofore the richest man in the community.
Friend Fairley rejoiced now that he had in by-gone days lent David books
to read; but he rejoiced secretly, for though his old bookman's heart
warmed at the thought that he should in good time hear, from one who had
seen with his own eyes, of the wonders of the East, it became him to
assume a ponderous placidity--for Framley had always been doubtful of his
bookishness and its influence on such as David. They said it boded no
good; there were those even who called Fairley "a new light," that schism
in a sect.
These God-fearing, dull folk were present now, and, disapproving of
David's choice in marriage, disapproved far more of its consequence; for
so they considered the projected journey into the tumultuous world and
the garish Orient. In the end, however, an austere approval was promised,
should the solemn commission of men and women appointed to confer with
and examine the candidates find in their favour--as in this case they
would certainly do; for thirty thousand pounds bulked potently even in
this community of unworldly folk, though smacking somewhat of the world,
the flesh and the devil.
If David, however, would stand to the shovel hat, and if Hope would be
faithful for ever to the poke bonnet and grey cloth, all might yet be
well. At the same time, they considered that friend David's mind was
distracted by the things of this world, and they reasoned with the Lord
in prayer upon the point in David's presence.
In worldly but religiously controlled dudgeon David left the
meeting-house, and inside the door of Hope's cottage said to his own
mother and to hers some bitter and un-Quaker-like things against the
stupid world--for to him as yet the world was Framley, though he would
soon mend that.
When he had done speaking against "the mad wits that would not see," Hope
laid her cool fingers on his arm and said, with a demure humour: "All the
world's mad but thee and me, David--and thee's a bit mad!"
So pleased was David's mother with this speech that then and there she
was reconciled to Hope's rebellious instincts, and saw safety for her son
in the hands of the quaint, clear-minded daughter of her old friend and
kinswoman, Mercy Marlowe.
Within three months David and Hope had seen the hills of Moab from the
top of the Mount of Olives; watched the sun go down over the Sea of
Galilee; plucked green boughs from the cedars on Lebanon; broken into
placid exclamations of delight in the wild orchard of nectarine blossoms
by the lofty ruins of Baalbac; walked in that street called Straight at
Damascus; journeyed through the desert with a caravan to Palmyra when the
Druses were up; and, at last, looked upon the spot where lived that
Pharaoh who knew not Joseph.
In this land they stayed; and even now far up the Nile you will hear of
the Two Strange People who travelled the river even to Dongola and some
way back--only some way back, for a long time. In particular you will
hear of them from an old dragoman called Mahommed Ramadan Saggara, and a
white-haired jeweller of Assiout, called Abdul Huseyn. These two men
still tell the tale of the two mad English folk with faces like no
English people ever seen in Egypt, who refused protection in their
travels, but went fearlessly among the Arabs everywhere, to do good and
fear not. The Quaker hat and saddened drab worked upon the Arab mind to
In Egypt, David and Hope found their pious mission--though historians
have since called it "whimsical and unpractical": David's to import the
great Syrian donkey, which was to banish the shame of grossly burdening
the small donkey of the land of Pharaoh; and Hope's to build schools
where English should be taught, to exclude "that language of Belial," as
David called French. When their schemes came home to Framley, with an
order on David's bankers for ten thousand pounds, grey-garbed
consternation walked abroad, and in meeting the First Day following no
one prayed or spoke for an hour or more. At last, however, friend Fairley
rose in his place and said:
"The Lord shall deliver the heathen into their hands."
Then the Spirit moved freely and severely among them all, and friend
Fairley was, as he said himself, "crowded upon the rails by the yearlings
of the flock." For he alone of all Framley believed that David and Hope
had not thrown away the Quaker drab, the shovel hat and the poke bonnet,
and had gone forth fashionable, worldly and an hungered, among the
fleshpots of Egypt. There was talk of gilded palaces, Saracenic
splendours and dark suggestions from the Arabian Nights.
Still, the ten thousand pounds went to David and Hope where they
smilingly laboured through the time of high Nile and low Nile, and
khamsin and sirocco, and cholera, and, worse than all, the banishments to
the hot Siberia of Fazougli.
But Mahommed Ramadan Saggara babbles yet of the time when, for one day,
David threw away his shovel hat; and Abdul Huseyn, the jeweller, tells
how, on the same day, the Sitt--that is, Hope--bought of him a ring of
turquoises and put it on her finger with a curious smile.
That day David and Hope, the one in a pith helmet, the other with a
turquoise ring on her left hand, went to dine with Shelek Pasha, the
Armenian Governor of the province, a man of varied talents, not least of
which was deceit of an artistic kind. For, being an Armenian, he said he
was a true Christian, and David believed him, though Hope did not; and
being an Oriental, he said he told the truth; and again David believed
him, though Hope did not. He had a red beard, an eye that glinted red
also, and fat, smooth fingers which kept playing with a string of beads
as though it were a rosary.
As hard as he worked to destroy the Quaker in David, she worked against
him; and she did not fear the end, for she believed in David Hyam of
Framley. It was Shelek Pasha's influence, persistently and adroitly used
for two years, which made friend David at last put aside for this one day
his Quaker hat. And the Pasha rejoiced; for, knowing human nature after a
fashion, he understood that when you throw the outer sign away--the sign
to you since your birth, like the fingers of your hand--the inner grace
begins decadence and in due time disappears.
Shelek Pasha had awaited this with Oriental patience, for he was sure
that if David gave way in one thing he would give way in all--and with a
rush, some day. Now, at last, he had got David and Hope to dine with him;
he had his meshes of deceit around them.
When they came to dinner Shelek Pasha saw the turquoise ring upon the
finger of friend Hope, and this startled him and pleased him. Here, he
knew, was his greatest enemy where David was concerned, and yet this
pretty Saint Elizabeth was wearing a fine turquoise ring with a poke
bonnet, in a very worldly fashion. He almost rubbed his eyes, it was so
hard to believe; for time and again he had offered antichi in bracelets,
rings and scarabs, and fine cottons from Beni-Mazar; and had been
promptly and firmly told that the Friends wore no jewelry nor gay attire.
Shelek Pasha, being a Christian--after the Armenian fashion--then desired
to learn of this strange religion, that his own nature might be bettered,
for, alas! snares for the soul are many in the Orient. For this Hope had
quietly but firmly referred him to David.
Then he had tried another tack: he had thrown in his interest with her
first school in his mudirieh; he got her Arab teachers from Cairo who
could speak English; he opened the large schoolhouse himself with great
ceremony, and with many kavasses in blue and gold. He said to himself
that you never could tell what would happen in this world, and it was
well to wait, and to watch the approach of that good angel Opportunity.
With all his devices, however, he could not quite understand Hope, and he
walked warily, lest through his lack of understanding he should, by some
mischance, come suddenly upon a reef, and his plans go shipwreck. Yet all
the time he laughed in his sleeve, for he foresaw the day when all this
money the Two Strange People were spending in his mudirieh should become
his own. If he could not get their goods and estates peaceably, riots
were so easy to arrange; he had arranged them before. Then, when the Two
Strange People had been struck with panic, the Syrian donkey-market, and
the five hundred feddans of American cotton, and the new schools would be
his for a song--or a curse.
When he saw the turquoise ring on the finger of the little Quaker lady he
fancied he could almost hear the accompaniment of the song. He tore away
tender portions of roasted lamb with his fingers, and crammed them into
his mouth, rejoicing. With the same greasy fingers he put upon Hope's
plate a stuffed cucumber, and would have added a clammy sweet and a
tumbler of sickly sherbet at the same moment; but Hope ate nothing save a
cake of dourha bread, and drank only a cup of coffee.
Meanwhile, Shelek Pasha talked of the school, of the donkey-market, the
monopoly of which the Khedive had granted David; and of the new
prosperous era opening up in Egypt, due to the cotton David had
introduced as an experiment. David's heart waxed proud within him that he
had walked out of Framley to the regeneration of a country. He likened
himself to Joseph, son of Jacob; and at once the fineness of his first
purposes became blunted.
As Shelek Pasha talked on, of schools, of taxes, of laws, of government,
to David, with no hat on--Samson without his hair--Hope's mind was
working as it had never worked before. She realised what a prodigious
liar Shelek Pasha was; for, talking benignly of equitable administration
as he did, she recalled the dark stories she had heard of rapine and
cruel imprisonment in this same mudirieh.
Suddenly Shelek Pasha saw the dark-blue eyes fastened upon his face with
a curious intentness, a strange questioning; and the blue of the
turquoise on the hand folded over the other in the grey lap did not quite
reassure him. He stopped talking, and spoke in a low voice to his kavass,
who presently brought a bottle of champagne--a final proof that Shelek
Pasha was not an ascetic or a Turk. As the bottle was being opened the
Pasha took up his string of beads and began to finger them, for the blue
eyes in the poke bonnet were disconcerting. He was about to speak when
Hope said, in a clear voice:
"Thee has a strange people beneath thee. Thee rules by the sword, or the
word of peace, friend?" The fat, smooth hands fingered the beads swiftly.
Shelek Pasha was disturbed, as he proved by replying in French--he had
spent years of his youth in France: "Par la force morale, toujours,
madame--by moral force, always," he hastened to add in English. Then,
casting down his eyes with truly Armenian modesty, he continued in
Arabic: "By the word of peace, oh woman of the clear eyes--to whom God
give length of days!"
Shelek Pasha smiled a greasy smile, and held the bottle of champagne over
the glass set for friend David.
Never in his life had David the Quaker tasted champagne. In his eyes, in
the eyes of Framley, it had been the brew especially prepared by Sheitan
to tempt to ruin the feeble ones of the earth. But the doublet of David's
mind was all unbraced now; his hat was off, his Quaker drab was spotted
with the grease of a roasted lamb. He had tasted freedom; he was near to
He took his hand from the top of the glass, and the amber liquid and the
froth poured in. At that instant he saw Hope's eyes upon his, he saw her
hand go to the poke bonnet, as it were to unloosen the strings. He saw
for the first time the turquoise ring; he saw the eyes of Shelek Pasha on
Hope with a look prophesying several kinds of triumph, none palatable to
him; and he stopped short on that road easy of gradient, which Shelek
Pasha was macadamising for him. He put his hand up as though to pull his
hat down over his eyes, as was his fashion when troubled or when he was
setting his mind to a task.
The hat was not there; but Hope's eyes were on his, and there were a
hundred Quaker hats or Cardinals' hats in them. He reached out quickly
and caught Hope's hand as it undid the strings of her grey bonnet. "Will
thee be mad, Hope?"
"All the world's mad but thee and me, David, and thee's a bit mad," she
answered in the tongue of Framley.
"The gaud upon thy hand?" he asked sternly; and his eyes flashed from her
to Shelek Pasha, for a horrible suspicion crept into his brain--a
shameless suspicion; but even a Quaker may be human and foolish, as
history has shown.
"The wine at thine elbow, David, and thine hat!" she answered steadily.
David, the friend of peace, was bitterly angry. He caught up the glass of
champagne and dashed it upon the fine prayer-rug which Shelek Pasha had,
with a kourbash, collected for taxes from a Greek merchant back from
Tiflis--the rug worth five hundred English pounds, the taxes but twenty
"Thee is a villain, friend," he said to Shelek Pasha in a voice like a
noise in a barrel; "I read thee as a book."
"But through the eyes of your wife, effendi; she read me first--we
understand each other!" answered the Governor with a hateful smile,
knowing the end of one game was at hand, and beginning another instantly
with an intelligent malice.
Against all Quaker principles David's sinful arm was lifted to strike,
but Hope's hand prevented him, and Shelek Pasha motioned back the
Abyssinian slaves who had sprung forward menacingly from behind a screen.
Hope led the outraged David, hatless, into the street.
That evening the Two Strange People went to Abdul Huseyn, the jeweller,
and talked with him for more than an hour; for Abdul Huseyn, as Egyptians
go, was a kindly man. He had taught Arabic to David and Hope. He would
have asked more than twelve pieces of silver to betray them.
The next afternoon a riot occurred around the house of the Two Strange
People and the school they had built; and Shelek Pasha would have had his
spite of them, and his will of the donkey-market, the school, and the
cotton-fields, but for Abdul Huseyn and three Sheikhs, friends of his--at
a price--who addressed the crowd and quieted them. They declared that the
Two were mad folk with whom even the English folk would have naught to
do; that they were of those from whom God had taken the souls, leaving
their foolish bodies on earth, and were therefore to be cared for and
protected, as the Koran said, be they infidel or the Faithful.
Furthermore, said Abdul Huseyn, in proof of their madness and a certain
sort of holiness, they wore hats always, as Arabs wore their turbans, and
were as like good Mahommedans as could be, sitting down to speak and
standing up to pray. He also added that they could not be enemies of the
Faithful, or a Christian Mudir would not have turned against them. And
Abdul Huseyn prevailed against Shelek Pasha--at a price; for Hope, seeing
no need for martyrdom, had not hesitated to open her purse.
Three days afterward, David, with Abdul Huseyn, went to the Palace of the
Khedive at Cairo, and within a week Shelek Pasha was on his way to
Fazougli, the hot Siberia. For the rage of the Khedive was great when he
heard what David and Abdul Huseyn told him of the murderous riot Shelek
Pasha had planned. David, being an honest Quaker--for now again he wore
his shovel hat--did not realise that the Khedive had only hungered for
this chance to confiscate the goods of Shelek Pasha. Was it not justice
to take for the chosen ruler of the Faithful the goods an Armenian
Christian had stolen from the poor? Before David left the Palace the
Khedive gave him the Order of the Mejidfeh, in token of what he had done
In the end, however, David took three things only out of Egypt: his wife,
the Order of the Mejidfeh, and Shelek Pasha's pardon, which he strove for
as hard as he had striven for his punishment, when he came to know the
Khedive had sent the Mudir to Fazougli merely that he might despoil him.
He only achieved this at last, again on the advice of Abdul Huseyn, by
giving the Khedive as backsheesh the Syrian donkey-market, the five
hundred feddans of cotton, and Hope's new school. Then, believing in no
one in Egypt any more, he himself went with an armed escort and his
Quaker hat, and the Order of the Khedive, to Fazougli, and brought Shelek
Pasha penniless to Cairo.
Nowadays, on the mastaba before his grandson's door, Abdul Huseyn, over
ninety "by the grace of Allah," still tells of the backsheesh he secured
from the Two Strange People for his help on a certain day.
In Framley, where the whole truth never came, David and Hope occasionally
take from a secret drawer the Order of the Mejidfeh to look at it, and,
as David says, to "learn the lesson of Egypt once again." Having learned
it to some purpose--and to the lifelong edification of old friend
Fairley, the only one who knew the whole truth--they founded three great
schools for Quaker children. They were wont to say to each other, as the
hurrying world made inroads on the strict Quaker life to which they had
returned: "All the world's mad but thee and me, and thee's a bit mad."
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