the money "honest." I knew he would rather die than part with it—sin or
no sin—and I knew also that he would surely die of fright if I did not
pronounce the money "honest gain." So I took the wad into my hands and
spoke Balaam's curse in Hebrew. "Now you may keep the money, Sayid," I
said. "The words I have spoken have made it clean, but you are a dirty
tyke just the same, and from now on I shall watch you."
Sayid groaned and said he wished I would. But did I?
was a chip of the old block. Abu Bakr, his father, was an Arab. He had
come to Sulu empty-handed and probably without a change of loin cloth.
Now he was one of the wealthy men on the island, owned a good deal of
land and some houses built of stone and rubble, for which the Chinese
traders paid good rentals. He also had a good store of the bright
yellow stuff in the big iron-clad chest under his bed, to which he had
attached three whacking great padlocks. On the rare occasions when he
unfastened it, the whole family had to stand guard.
old fellow was the real article for meanness. They told remarkable
tales about this trait in his character, and his own son told me that
he counted the grains of rice when he handed out the day's ration. When
I asked why he did not weigh it out to save himself the trouble of
counting the grains, Sayid laughed and said, "And you think my father
he spend good money on such foolishnesses as a pair of scales?"
"Foolishness," I corrected, "not foolishnesses!"
"Why?" said Sayid, "scales is plu-ral."
left it at that. "At any rate," I went on, "your father has quite a
good belly on him and he looks as though he got his food somewhere."
Sayid replied, "he is Arab. He can read the Koran in Arabic too, better
maybe than Hadji Ousman, that son of a bitch. That's why the Moros ask
him to their houses when there is a marriage, a circumcision or a
burying. Then father eats plenty to last him until the next time. But
mother often is hungry, and I think she would like to break the strong