Third Extract from Tribal Gathering

The Story The Visit

[…]Arthur’s dilemma ended when a man, wearing green silk robes of the finest quality, suddenly appeared to his left. He addressed Arthur quietly in Pidgin English, telling him to remove his shoes and bow low before walking towards the emir. The man went on to explain that Arthur would be permitted to sit on the simple wooden stool that had been placed about ten feet away from the base of the raised dais.
After bowing low and taking a last glance at his shoes, which had been neatly placed on the floor near the doors by a servant, Arthur walked forward at a slow pace. At the command of the green-robed figure at his side, Arthur sat on the stool. Suddenly the emir began to address Arthur in the Usmar language and almost immediately the green-robed man began to translate.
After about five minutes of welcoming speech from the emir, it was Arthur’s turn to speak. When he’d finished carefully explaining his reasons for requiring an audience with one of the most powerful men in northern Nibana, Arthur waited patiently whilst the green-robed interpreter relayed the message. For a fleeting moment, Arthur detected what he thought was a smile from the emir. He couldn’t be sure because only the man’s eyes were visible. Nonetheless, Arthur felt certain that between the heavy veil drawn across the lower portion of the emir’s face and the bright green turban covering his head, the dark eyes had twinkled merrily in response to the interpreter’s words.
The reply confirmed it. The emir, according to the interpreter, had expressed great pleasure at Arthur’s visit and looked forward to meeting his old friend Hyde-Beecroft again after so many years.
Somewhat relieved that the interview had gone so well, Arthur thanked the emir and made to depart. However, before he could move, the interpreter said the emir wished Arthur to remain for a while longer and partake of refreshments. Arthur’s heart sank. He had wanted to get out of the throne room as quickly as possible because his English suit and the dreadful smell from the torches and the smouldering sticks of incense were making him feel so uncomfortably hot and nauseous.
As suddenly as he’d appeared, the green-robed interpreter disappeared through a door to the left of the emir’s dais. Then, much to Arthur’s surprise, the two heavy-duty guards also departed through the same exit.
Somewhat bemused, Arthur found himself alone with the emir, wondering how he would communicate. Arthur’s command of the Usmar language was basic, to say the least. No more than ‘kitchen Usmar’, fit only for stewards and smallboys not the most respected Usmar leader in the whole of the Northern Region.
The emir beckoned Arthur to approach the dais and began unwinding the huge length of cloth that formed the veil around his face and neck. The turban was the next article to be discarded and, as the emir stood up, he addressed Arthur in perfect English.
“Mr Meadows, I do hope you will partake of a cooling drink in my private quarters. I meet so few Europeans these days. Please collect your shoes, put them on and follow me.”
Forgetting momentarily that the emir had attended university in England, Arthur hadn’t expected to hear such impeccable English from a man who looked as though he’d just time-travelled from twelfth-century Arabia. It took Arthur several seconds to realise he was staring at the emir with his mouth partially open. Closing his lips tightly, Arthur quickly retrieved his shoes and followed the now bareheaded figure through a door on the right of the dais.
The emir led the way through a number of dark passages for what seemed like an age. Finally they emerged into a beautiful garden with fountains, green lawns and wonderful flowering shrubs that must have taken an army of gardeners and many thousands of gallons of water to keep in such excellent condition. In the centre of the garden was a bungalow, not dissimilar to the one Arthur and his family occupied. Typically colonial in style it had large verandas on all four sides and large, glass-panelled double doors leading into the living, sleeping and dining areas[…]

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