ABDULLAH THE POCK-MARKED, AND THE STORY OF FERRAJ AND DAOUD
Abdullah, the pock-marked, undersized, fiery little
Bedouin who commanded Lawrence’s personal body-
guard, although in appearance a dried-up stick of a man,
is one of the most daring and chivalrous sons of Ishmael
that ever rode a dromedary. He would take keen
delight in tackling ten men by himself. Apart from
his fearlessness, he was a valuable lieutenant, because
he knew how to deal with unruly members of the body-
guard. Lawrence would urge his followers on with the
promise of extravagant rewards, gold, jewels and beauti-
ful clothes, if they succeeded. Abdullah would promise
them a sound beating if they failed, and the certainty
that he would fulfil his threat carried at least as much
weight with the bodyguard as did Lawrence’s milder
method. As for Abdullah himself, his most frequent
boast was that he had served under all the princes of the
desert and had been imprisoned by every one of them.
The English shereef’s personal bodyguard, consisting
of eighty carefully-picked men, was the corps d’ elite of
the desert. All its men were famous fighters who pos-
sessed powers of endurance which would enable them to
ride hard for a day and a night on end, if necessary.
They were required to be ready for a raid on the Turks
at any moment, and always to keep up with their leader
on the trek. No man was accepted who could not, with
one hand free, leap into the camel -saddle at the trot
while carrying a rifle in the other. Taking it all round,
the bod}’guard was an extraordinary collection of
mettlesome, gay-spirited, good-natured scalawags.
Its members were devoted to their Anglo-Bedouin
shereef ; but to guard against the possibility of a con-
spiracy among them, never more than two men were
selected from each tribe, so that inter- tribal jealousy
might prevent any group from plotting against their
leader. Nearly every man in the Hedjaz army wanted
to belong to the bodyguard, because LawTence took it
on all of his raiding, bridge-blowing, and train-wrecking
expeditions, ” stunts ” which provided much loot and
many thrills — gifts dear to the heart of the Bedouin.
Then, too, the pay was greater than that given to any of
the other volunteers in the Arabian army. Furthermore,
they received a liberal allowance for costly raiment ; for
they spent all their money on clothes, and when gathered
in a body they produced an effect similar to that of an
Oriental flower garden.
A familiar saying among them was that they might
as well spend their gold on clothes and a good time, since
Allah might take them to paradise at any moment.
Among Colonel Lawrence’s personal retinue the percentage
of casualties was far greater than among other regulars
and irregulars of Feisal’s army, for they were continually
being sent across the desert on dangerous missions.
Frequently they were despatched through the Turkish
lines to act as spies, a service for which the bodyguard
was especially suitable, since it contained at least one
man from each district between Mecca and Aleppo.
Lawrence always arrogated to himself more than his full
share of these hazardous missions.
To accompany Lawrence and his bodyguard on an
expedition was a fantastic experience. First rode the
young shereef, incongruously picturesque with his Anglo-
Saxon face, gorgeous head-dress and beautiful robes.
Likely enough, if the party were moving at walking pace,
he would be reading and smiling to himself over the
brilhant satire of Aristophanes in the original. Then
in a long, irregular column his Bedouin ” sons ” followed
in their rainbow-coloured garments, swaying to the
rhythm of the camel gait. And whether they were passing
over the sands east of Akaba, or the stony hill-country
of Edom and Moab, they always sang and jested.
At either end of the cavalcade was a warrior-poet.
One of them would begin to chant a verse, and each man,
all along the column, would take his turn to cap thejpoet’s
words with lines of the same metre. There were war-
songs and songs that caused the camels to lower their
heads and move at a faster pace. Often in the verses
the men commented on each other’s love-affairs or on
the Emir Feisal or Sidi (Lord) Lawrence.
” I wish he would pay us another pound a month.”
This, decorated with rhetorical flourishes in Arabic, was
the theme of the bodyguard’s song one day.
Another time it was : ” I wonder if Allah has seen the
head-cloth which has the good fortune to cover our
Lord Lawrence’s head ? It is not a good head-cloth.
The Lord Lawrence should give it me.” As a matter
of fact, the head-cloths that Shereef Lawrence wore were
more resplendent than any they had ever seen. His
playful ” sons ” coveted them.
The harmonic scale of Arabian music is different from
ours, so that to Western ears unused to it Arabian singing
sounds like a medley of discords. Yet the Bedouins
delighted in Western music churned out by a phonograph
that Lawrence brought from Cairo. Its success encour-
aged a Scottish sergeant in Akaba to provide some instru-
ments and organize a band. He helped the Arab bands-
men to create an Arabian national anthem, and taught
them to play ” Annie Laurie ” and ” Auld Land Syne ”
after a fashion. The Scottish airs we could stand for a
time, even though every instrument was out of tune
and every man chose his own key; but whenever the
Arabs practised their own national anthem around the
camp we preferred swimming, and left at once for a
deserted island down the gulf for a dip in the surf, just
below the ruin of a Crusader castle, where Godfrey de
Bouillon and his knights had bathed a thousand years
The Bedouin bodyguard’s sense of humour sometimes
took the form of practical jokes. If one of their number
fell asleep in his saddle, a companion would charge his
camel straight at the slumberer and knock him off.
Whenever their ” Lord ” left them for a visit to Cairo, or
to Allenby’s headquarters, most of his bodyguard managed
to get themselves imprisoned by the Emir Feisal as a
result of their wild humour and general unruliness.
Nobody but Lawrence could handle his devils, as they
Once, having just returned to Akaba from Egypt,
he wanted to set out on a secret mission without delay.
As usual, he found the majority of his personal followers
in the lock-up. Among the prisoners were two specially
daring men named Ferraj and Daoud. Lawrence im-
mediately sent for Sheik Yussef, the civil governor of
Akaba, and asked what had happened. Yussef laughed
and cursed, then laughed again.
“1 had a beautiful white camel,” he said, ” and one
night she strayed away. Next morning I heard a great
commotion in the street, and when I went out I found
every one in the bazaar laughing uproariously at an
animal with blue legs and a red head. Not without
difficulty I recognized it as my camel. Ferraj and
Daoud were found at the waterfront washing red henna
and blue indigo dye off their arms, yet they denied all
knowledge of my beautiful white cameL Allah will
pardon me for doubting them.”
Ferraj and Daoud were well known as inseparable
in a land where lonely desert and the need for mutual
protection called for close friendships. David and Jona-
than were not more intimate than Ferraj and Daoud,
until, as an Eastern story-teller might say, there came
to them the Destroyer of Dehghts and the Gamerer of
Graveyards. Daoud died of fever in Akaba, where-
upon Ferraj became intensely miserable and soon after-
ward committed suicide by galloping his camel headlong
into the Turks.
Occasionally members of Lawrence’s bodyguard
accompanied him to Cairo. Those thus honoured would
don their most vivid robes, rouge their lips, darken the
hollows under their eyes with kohl, and saturate them-
selves with bottles of scent. Then, bristling with weapons,
they swaggered contemptuously past the town-Arabs
of Cairo, ogling the veiled ladies, buying richly-brocaded
garments, and causing much excitement, in which they
Abdullah, lieutenant of the bodyguard, once travelled
with his leader to General Allenby’s headquarters at
Ramleh. While Lawrence was in consultation with the
commander-in-chief, the Arab lieutenant roamed off
alone. Six hours passed and he did not return. Then
Lawrence was informed by telephone that the assistant
provost-marshal had arrested the fiery little Arab because
he looked like a hired assassin who might be prowling
around with the intention of shooting General Allenby.
Abdullah, said the assistant provost-marshal, had ex-
plained through an interpreter that he was one of Sidi
Lawrence’s ” sons,” and demanded a ceremonious apology
for having been arrested. Meantime, he was eating up
all the oranges in the quarters of the head of the military
Punishment for the misdeeds of the various members
of the bodyguard was difficult, for a nomad Arab can
scarcely be imprisoned jn his camel, and he cares naught
for words of reproof. A conscientious beating from
Abdullah was perhaps the most effective solution. A
common form of punishment among the Bedouins is to
throw at a man’s head a short dagger so that it shall
chop through the hair -and cause a superficial but very
painful scalp wound. Bedouins who are conscious of
transgression sometimes wound themselves in this manner
and then, with blood streaming over their faces, crave
pardon of the person they have wronged.