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THE HARVEST OF ABU SABA'.
AJIL AL MUSARHAD, shaikh made a practice of passing on of the Albu Obaid, slipped off most of the tribal applicants his sandals at the door and for his Adviser to deal with, slowly advanced into the Divi- for Mackintosh's feelings tosional Adviser's office. His wards the primitive patriarchal visits there had of late been shaikh were, as the Mutasarrif a little too frequent, Mackin- knew, the exact reverse of his tosh thought, as he rose from own. his paper-strewn table; but Ajil, with the Arab's courtly none the less he went forward gesture of thanks, lit the cigarand greeted him warmly, for ette offered him by Mackinhe had a real liking for the tosh, and sat for a few moold man.
ments in silence. Then, after Perhaps Shaikh Ajil read two or three deep inhalations, something of the Adviser's he spoke again. thoughts, for his first remark, The harvest awaits the as he seated himself cross- sickle." legged on the wide bench, was Mackintosh guessed what was in a tone of apology.
coming “I have seen His Excellency “Six months ago, Sahib, I the Mutasarrif, and he bade rode hither with a heart full me come to your Honour.” of wrath. My enemy, Zambur,
Khalid Beg had had suffi- had sent men to plough and cient public spirit to give up sow their seed within the borhis flourishing business as a ders of my land, and I came merchant at Basrah, and serve hot-foot to inform your Honhis country under the new our of the insult to my tribe, Arab Government as Muta- that I might return with persarrif or Governor of a large mission to attack and drive district. But, townsman bred, them out. And you made he could not so easily give up answer, ‘Wait, Ajil, until the the inherent prejudices of his time is ripe.' So to my angry class, chief among which was tribesmen I took the message a rooted antipathy to the de- -the Hakim bids you wait. spised tribal element. Of this “ A second time I came, say: mental bias Khalid was well ing, The rains have fallen, aware, and, desirous that it and the land is green with the should not affect the honesty sprouting seed '; and again of his administration, he had your Honour replied, 'Wait.' But I said, 'I am not as the The old shaikh paused, and wealthy rice shaikhs, nor are slowly lit another cigarette. my people as the townsmen Now the fields are white, who have waxed fat through yet it is not we who shall hartheir trading with the English vest them, for we have learned troops. We are desert dwellers, that Zambur is in league with possessing nothing except our Shaikh Mohammad, and the pride. How, then, can I re- two together are stronger far strain my men in their just than we.” anger, when they see the lands Ah !” exclaimed Mackinof their fathers ploughed and tosh. “Then I was right, sown by another tribe ?' Then Ajil.” your Honour explained, say- Yes, the right was in your ing, 'What is Zambur's reason hand,” the old man admitted for sending into your land a after a short silence. “If we few unarmed cultivators ? Is had driven out Zambur's cultiit not in the hope that you will vators, he and Mohammad attack him when he is prepared would have combined to attack for you! Be patient, and let us, and without
we the time of attack be your should have been scattered, choice, not his.' So again I for we knew not that two such returned, and said to my people, ancient enemies had made peace “Soon the Hakim will give us to unite against us. Nevertheleave to drive out these dogs : less, I and my people do not hold your hands but a little yet despair, for have we not longer.'
your Honour's promiseZam“Then, Sahib, your Honour bur shall never reap where his will remember that a third tribes have sown.” time I came in distress of mind, "Is it not enough that I for the blade was waving tall have saved you and your tribe in the breeze, and I feared that from the hands of Zambur and when the ear showed itself my Mohammad ?” suggested Macpeople would no longer be re- kintosh. strained. Already they were “My men will not believe making hosa. And this time me if I tell them that there I took back with me, not per- was water hidden by the floatmission to fight, but a promise. ing straw, since they them'Tell your tribesmen,' you said, selves saw it not; for as you
that though Shaikh Zambur's know, O Hakim, 'the brain men have ploughed in their of the Arab is in his eye.' lands, yet never will they reap How will they believe me if I what they have sown.' This tell them of the danger they message I bore them, adding, have escaped! They will clam"Lay aside your arms now, our for the grain sown in their and let your minds be at rest, lands, and my honour will be for the Hakim has given his broken before my tribes,” he word.''
Mackintosb heartily regretted piece of Iraq; but up to the that, difficult as was the posi- present he had relied on craft tion in which he had been rather than on force, hoping placed, he had ever allowed to make it appear that the Ajil to extort from him so first act of aggression came from rash a promise. Yet he knew Ajil-a plan which would have that this promise alone had succeeded but for Mackintosh's enabled the shaikh to restrain restraining hand. his tribesmen, and himself to Though the parallel had not keep free from disturbance a occurred to him, Mackintosh had district in which were at stake given his pledge to Shaikh Ajil wider issues than that of the in much the same way as Engharvest of Abu Saba'.
land, under the stress of a world Ajil's lands lay just within war, had promised independthe frontier line demarcated ence to the Arab nation; and by the Commission of 1914– just as he was now faced with here an arbitrary boundary the unforeseen alliance of Zamwhich, while separating Iraq bur and Mohammad, so had from Persia, left Arabs on each Britain, when the time of fulfilside, and seemed to accentuate ment came, found herself conthe mutual hostility of these fronted both at home and in tribes, which owed allegiance Iraq by a whole host of unto different governments. The expected difficulties. Not the old enmity had now flamed up least of these was a malicious afresh, when Shaikh Zambur, press campaign, which so disholder of the Persian territory torted the facts that the taxopposite to Ajil's, realised that payer was led to regard exthe British troops, which no penditure on Mesopotamia as one had believed would really an intolerable burden, rather be withdrawn, had actually than as part of the heavy price departed, leaving a mere stiffen- of victory. Evacuation of the ing for the newly created Arab country was urged by plausible army. On all sides, tribes and arguments, which concealed the States hostile to Iraq were dishonour of following such a beginning to send raiding course before England had set parties, feelers as it were, to up another form of governtest their conclusion that the ment to replace the Turkish infant State was now an easy one which she had overthrown. prey. The Akhwan and other The rising of 1920 was cited desert tribes raided in the south as a proof of Iraq's hostility and west, in the north the to the British, whereas in reality Turks were trying to regain it was brought about by a few their lost supremacy, and in idealists who, impatient of any Kurdistan there was also a delay in attaining the promised grave danger. Zambur was by independence, led the ignorant no means alone in his attempt tribes into rebellion. Instead to add to his possessions a of sympathetic and constructive
criticism, sarcasm and petty missed the old shaikh with a cavilling, if not abuse, were promise that on the morrow showered on those whose task he would give him a definite it was to unravel the tangled decision. As he sat pondering skein of Mesopotamian policy. over the question, he thought
So much having been made regretfully of the good old days of the difficulties, it is strange when he had under him half how little the public has heard a dozen A.P.O.'s. Now the of the solution—all the more only Britisher left was Rand, strange when one considers Commandant of the 9th Tigris that this solution is unique in Levy, which was employed to the history of one nation's keep order among the turbudealings with another. A coun- lent marsh tribes ; and he, try, conquered and reconquered, Mackintosh recollected with is voluntarily handed back to pleasure, was due that eventhe conquered, who are offered ing or the next morning on not merely independence, but his monthly visit to draw the protection while that independ money with which to pay his ence is being attained.
It would be a relief to ready the foundations of the talk the problem over with new State are being well and some one, and perhaps Rand's firmly laid. A king has been resourceful brain might offer chosen by the people, and elec- some solution. tions for the National Assembly are in full swing. The adminis
“So you see it has been tration is now in the hands of touch and go for the last seven Iraqis, assisted by a mere or eight months,” concluded handful of British advisers, Mackintosh, as the two men whose part it will be, as soon sat together on the flat roof as a strong and enduring edifice that night after dinner. “Only begins to rise upon these foun- a spark was needed to set the dations, to turn and go. For whole Division ablaze, and an each of these, every good day's attack by Ajil would have supwork brings nearer the ter- plied it. Hence my rash prommination, perhaps in the prime ise : I simply had to temporise, of life, of his official career; in the hope that something but it brings nearer also its would turn up. But time has own reward, the satisfaction of now become my enemy instead seeing the young State stand- of my friend ; the harvest will ing firm on its own feet, and be ready for reaping in a few of having contributed in some days, and I've got to do somemeasure to the successful issue thing at once. I wish to goodof England's great experiment. ness I could lay my hands on
Mackintosh, realising that a squadron of cavalry. But some sort of action in the there are no troops left, and matter of Ajil's crops could the aeroplanes are too busy up no longer be postponed, dig- north."
Why not make use of my ginning to teach them polo. Levy, sir ? " suggested Rand. There must be another twenty
Your men are already am- or so among the rest of the phibious," Mackintosh said with Levy. Yes, I'll guarantee you a laugh. “It would be too fifty men who can ride, sir, much to expect them to be though I can't mount them aeronautical as well, for they all." would certainly spend more “No difficulty about that. time in the air than in the I can get horses easily enough saddle !"
from the shaikhs. By Jove, , “But they are not all marsh- Rand, I believe we shall pull men," objected Rand. “I've it off after all !" got a fair number from other “What's your plan, sir?” tribes
S; most of them have “It isn't much of a one, I'm committed a murder or some- afraid. I propose that you and thing, and have fled from their your men come out with me to own people and enlisted with Ajil's place. Probably when
Good stout fellows they Zambur sees he is up against are, too,” he added. “How Government troops, he will be many mounted men would you too scared to attack, and will want, sir ?
leave the Albu Obaid to reap “I'd be content with fifty.” the harvest in peace.”
“I think I could guarantee “ But if he isn't scared ? you that number," said Rand. We can't put up much of a “I have got fifteen sowaris, show with only fifty men." whom I use for taking messages “True," admitted Mackinbetween my river - posts and tosh. “It's a poor card, but keeping in touch with you here. the only one we hold. We Then I know some of my must just play it for all it is N.C.O.'s can ride, for I'm be- worth."
Three days later, soon after breds, gaily caparisoned; sunrise, a band of horsemen others, less generous or more clattered across the swaying cautious, had sent kadish bridge of decrepit boats which horses, only fit for the plough. led out of the town towards And the equestrian powers of the desert. The fifty riders, Rand's men were no less varied : with Mackintosh and Rand at some rode with the natural their head, formed an odd ease of the desert-born ; others, medley ; some of the shaikhs, in their eagerness to take part thinking on receipt of the in the expedition, had allowed Adviser's letter that the horses themselves to exaggerate their were for his personal use, had skill in horsemanship. To all sent in their valuable thorough- of them a touch of the uncouth