It was a big risk, for Ali Higg's vengeance was always the same; he simply turned a horde of men loose to work their will on the inhabitants of any village that defied him. The sheikh was not quite sure yet that he really sat face to face with the redoubtable robber, yet did not dare put that doubt to the test. "Is that all Your Honor wants?" he asked. "Just that messenger?"
"What you've got to understand first and last is that I'm dead set on clipping Ali Higg's claws. I don't care a row of imitation pewter shucks about any man's ambition, or any woman's past. My job in the world is to do what I'm able to do, and I'm going to prevent war in this land if I get killed doing it and have to ruin you in the bargain! Now, are we set?"
And I took that to mean that in his judgment Jimgrim could find use for Ali Higg's seal. But of course she heard him, and she took it to mean that she had guessed rightly.
Then: "Is it money your Sheikh Jimgrim wants?" she asked at last. "Does he hold me to ransom? If so, I will give him a draft on the Bank of Egypt. I have Ali Higg's seal here, and I write all his letters." I did not answer, but Narayan Singh checked his camel a stride or two to make a signal to me behind her back. "Hah!" he remarked with an air of triumph.
I could not see Grim's face, of course, since I stood behind him, but I did not detect the least movement of surprise or nervousness. He stood as if he were used to being called by that name, but the rest of us did not dare look at one another. Once across that railway-line we were in the real Ali Higg's preserves.
Can you imagine me not pushing you into Ali Higg's clutches at the first chance?" "Sure I can, or I wouldn't waste time talking. You've got more sense than that, Jael. You might trick me. It has been done. Ali Higg might scupper me and the crowd he mighty likely would.
Grim had doped him out too, and answered promptly without changing a muscle of his face. "Wallahi! Should I bring my wife to this place?" "Allah! Thy wife?" "Whose else?" "It was Ali Higg's wife according to the tale!" "Some fools swallow tales as the dogs eat the offal thrown to them! By the beard of God's Prophet, whom do you take me for?" "Go and ask the kites, then, at Dat Ras!" "You are he?
Ayisha accepted a cigarette, fitted it into a long amber tube, and watched him. "Very well," he said at last. "If I protect you you must answer questions. Are you Ali Higg's wife?" "Have I Your Honor's promise of protection?" "Yes. Are you Ali Higg's wife?" "I am his second wife." "Thought so! And you've been sent to make purchases for number one?" She nodded.
Good job I had that letter to show her, though, wasn't it?" "Ali Higg's Brains Live in a Black Tent!" I hate to have to admit that there was any virtue in Suliman, or anything other than vice in his new chum Abdullah.
"You've told too much already to be able to stop now, Jael," he answered, smiling. "I'm sure you won't put me to the necessity of searching you; you've too much pride for that. So suppose you pass me Ali Higg's seal the one you sign all his letters with. No, don't try to hide it in the sand; put it here." He held his hand out, and she bit her lip in mortification.