Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of Gilbert Parker > Text of All The World's Mad

A short story by Gilbert Parker

All The World's Mad

Title:     All The World's Mad
Author: Gilbert Parker [More Titles by Parker]

Up to thirty-two years of age David Hyam, of the village of Framley, in Staffordshire, was not a man of surprises. With enough of this world's goods to give him comfort of body and suave gravity of manner, the figure he cut was becoming to his Quaker origin and profession. No one suspected the dynamic possibilities of his nature till a momentous day in August, in the middle Victorian period, when news from Bristol came that an uncle in chocolate had died and left him the third of a large fortune, without condition or proviso.

This was of a Friday, and on the Saturday following David did his first startling act--he offered marriage to Hope Marlowe, the only Quaker girl in Framley who had ever dared to discard the poke bonnet even for a day, and who had been publicly reproved for laughing in meeting--for Mistress Hope had a curious, albeit demure and suggestive, sense of humour; she was, in truth, a kind of sacred minuet in grey. Hope had promptly accepted David, at the same time taunting him softly with the fact that he had recklessly declared he would never marry, even saying profanely that upon his word and honour he never would! She repeated to him what his own mother once replied to his audacious worldly protests:

"If thee say thee will never, never, never do a thing, thee will some day surely do it."

Then, seeing that David was a bit chagrined, Hope slipped one hand into his, drew him back within the door, lifted the shovel hat off his forehead, and whispered with a coquetry unworthy a Quaker maid:

"But thee did not say, friend David, thee would never, never, never smite thy friend on both cheeks after she had flouted thee."

Having smitten her on both cheeks, after the manner of foolish men, David gravely got him to his home and to a sound sleep that night. Next morning, the remembrance of the pleasant smiting roused him to an outwardly sedate and inwardly vainglorious courage. Going with steady steps to the Friends' meeting-house at the appointed time, the Spirit moved him, after a decorous pause, to announce his intended marriage to the prettiest Quaker in Framley, even the maid who had shocked the community's sense of decorum and had been written down a rebel--though these things he did not say.

From the recesses of her poke bonnet Hope watched the effect of David's words upon the meeting; but when the elders turned and looked at her, as became her judges before the Lord, her eyes dropped; also her heart thumped so hard she could hear it; and in the silence that followed it seemed to beat time to the words like the pendulum of a clock: "Fear not-Love on! Fear not--Love on!" But the heart beat faster still, the eyes came up quickly, and the face flushed a deep, excited red when David, rising again, said that, with the consent of the community--a consent which his voice subtly insisted upon--he would take a long journey into the Holy Land, into Syria, travelling to Baalbec and Damascus, and even beyond as far as the desolate city of Palmyra; and then, afterwards, into Egypt, where Joseph and the sons of Israel were captive aforetime. He would fain visit the Red Sea, and likewise confer with the Coptic Christians in Egypt, "of whom thee and me have read to our comfort," he added piously, looking at friend Fairley, the oldest and heretofore the richest man in the community.

Friend Fairley rejoiced now that he had in by-gone days lent David books to read; but he rejoiced secretly, for though his old bookman's heart warmed at the thought that he should in good time hear, from one who had seen with his own eyes, of the wonders of the East, it became him to assume a ponderous placidity--for Framley had always been doubtful of his bookishness and its influence on such as David. They said it boded no good; there were those even who called Fairley "a new light," that schism in a sect.

These God-fearing, dull folk were present now, and, disapproving of David's choice in marriage, disapproved far more of its consequence; for so they considered the projected journey into the tumultuous world and the garish Orient. In the end, however, an austere approval was promised, should the solemn commission of men and women appointed to confer with and examine the candidates find in their favour--as in this case they would certainly do; for thirty thousand pounds bulked potently even in this community of unworldly folk, though smacking somewhat of the world, the flesh and the devil.

If David, however, would stand to the shovel hat, and if Hope would be faithful for ever to the poke bonnet and grey cloth, all might yet be well. At the same time, they considered that friend David's mind was distracted by the things of this world, and they reasoned with the Lord in prayer upon the point in David's presence.

In worldly but religiously controlled dudgeon David left the meeting-house, and inside the door of Hope's cottage said to his own mother and to hers some bitter and un-Quaker-like things against the stupid world--for to him as yet the world was Framley, though he would soon mend that.

When he had done speaking against "the mad wits that would not see," Hope laid her cool fingers on his arm and said, with a demure humour: "All the world's mad but thee and me, David--and thee's a bit mad!"

So pleased was David's mother with this speech that then and there she was reconciled to Hope's rebellious instincts, and saw safety for her son in the hands of the quaint, clear-minded daughter of her old friend and kinswoman, Mercy Marlowe.


Within three months David and Hope had seen the hills of Moab from the top of the Mount of Olives; watched the sun go down over the Sea of Galilee; plucked green boughs from the cedars on Lebanon; broken into placid exclamations of delight in the wild orchard of nectarine blossoms by the lofty ruins of Baalbac; walked in that street called Straight at Damascus; journeyed through the desert with a caravan to Palmyra when the Druses were up; and, at last, looked upon the spot where lived that Pharaoh who knew not Joseph.

In this land they stayed; and even now far up the Nile you will hear of the Two Strange People who travelled the river even to Dongola and some way back--only some way back, for a long time. In particular you will hear of them from an old dragoman called Mahommed Ramadan Saggara, and a white-haired jeweller of Assiout, called Abdul Huseyn. These two men still tell the tale of the two mad English folk with faces like no English people ever seen in Egypt, who refused protection in their travels, but went fearlessly among the Arabs everywhere, to do good and fear not. The Quaker hat and saddened drab worked upon the Arab mind to advantage.

In Egypt, David and Hope found their pious mission--though historians have since called it "whimsical and unpractical": David's to import the great Syrian donkey, which was to banish the shame of grossly burdening the small donkey of the land of Pharaoh; and Hope's to build schools where English should be taught, to exclude "that language of Belial," as David called French. When their schemes came home to Framley, with an order on David's bankers for ten thousand pounds, grey-garbed consternation walked abroad, and in meeting the First Day following no one prayed or spoke for an hour or more. At last, however, friend Fairley rose in his place and said:

"The Lord shall deliver the heathen into their hands."

Then the Spirit moved freely and severely among them all, and friend Fairley was, as he said himself, "crowded upon the rails by the yearlings of the flock." For he alone of all Framley believed that David and Hope had not thrown away the Quaker drab, the shovel hat and the poke bonnet, and had gone forth fashionable, worldly and an hungered, among the fleshpots of Egypt. There was talk of gilded palaces, Saracenic splendours and dark suggestions from the Arabian Nights.

Still, the ten thousand pounds went to David and Hope where they smilingly laboured through the time of high Nile and low Nile, and khamsin and sirocco, and cholera, and, worse than all, the banishments to the hot Siberia of Fazougli.

But Mahommed Ramadan Saggara babbles yet of the time when, for one day, David threw away his shovel hat; and Abdul Huseyn, the jeweller, tells how, on the same day, the Sitt--that is, Hope--bought of him a ring of turquoises and put it on her finger with a curious smile.

That day David and Hope, the one in a pith helmet, the other with a turquoise ring on her left hand, went to dine with Shelek Pasha, the Armenian Governor of the province, a man of varied talents, not least of which was deceit of an artistic kind. For, being an Armenian, he said he was a true Christian, and David believed him, though Hope did not; and being an Oriental, he said he told the truth; and again David believed him, though Hope did not. He had a red beard, an eye that glinted red also, and fat, smooth fingers which kept playing with a string of beads as though it were a rosary.

As hard as he worked to destroy the Quaker in David, she worked against him; and she did not fear the end, for she believed in David Hyam of Framley. It was Shelek Pasha's influence, persistently and adroitly used for two years, which made friend David at last put aside for this one day his Quaker hat. And the Pasha rejoiced; for, knowing human nature after a fashion, he understood that when you throw the outer sign away--the sign to you since your birth, like the fingers of your hand--the inner grace begins decadence and in due time disappears.

Shelek Pasha had awaited this with Oriental patience, for he was sure that if David gave way in one thing he would give way in all--and with a rush, some day. Now, at last, he had got David and Hope to dine with him; he had his meshes of deceit around them.

When they came to dinner Shelek Pasha saw the turquoise ring upon the finger of friend Hope, and this startled him and pleased him. Here, he knew, was his greatest enemy where David was concerned, and yet this pretty Saint Elizabeth was wearing a fine turquoise ring with a poke bonnet, in a very worldly fashion. He almost rubbed his eyes, it was so hard to believe; for time and again he had offered antichi in bracelets, rings and scarabs, and fine cottons from Beni-Mazar; and had been promptly and firmly told that the Friends wore no jewelry nor gay attire. Shelek Pasha, being a Christian--after the Armenian fashion--then desired to learn of this strange religion, that his own nature might be bettered, for, alas! snares for the soul are many in the Orient. For this Hope had quietly but firmly referred him to David.

Then he had tried another tack: he had thrown in his interest with her first school in his mudirieh; he got her Arab teachers from Cairo who could speak English; he opened the large schoolhouse himself with great ceremony, and with many kavasses in blue and gold. He said to himself that you never could tell what would happen in this world, and it was well to wait, and to watch the approach of that good angel Opportunity.

With all his devices, however, he could not quite understand Hope, and he walked warily, lest through his lack of understanding he should, by some mischance, come suddenly upon a reef, and his plans go shipwreck. Yet all the time he laughed in his sleeve, for he foresaw the day when all this money the Two Strange People were spending in his mudirieh should become his own. If he could not get their goods and estates peaceably, riots were so easy to arrange; he had arranged them before. Then, when the Two Strange People had been struck with panic, the Syrian donkey-market, and the five hundred feddans of American cotton, and the new schools would be his for a song--or a curse.

When he saw the turquoise ring on the finger of the little Quaker lady he fancied he could almost hear the accompaniment of the song. He tore away tender portions of roasted lamb with his fingers, and crammed them into his mouth, rejoicing. With the same greasy fingers he put upon Hope's plate a stuffed cucumber, and would have added a clammy sweet and a tumbler of sickly sherbet at the same moment; but Hope ate nothing save a cake of dourha bread, and drank only a cup of coffee.

Meanwhile, Shelek Pasha talked of the school, of the donkey-market, the monopoly of which the Khedive had granted David; and of the new prosperous era opening up in Egypt, due to the cotton David had introduced as an experiment. David's heart waxed proud within him that he had walked out of Framley to the regeneration of a country. He likened himself to Joseph, son of Jacob; and at once the fineness of his first purposes became blunted.

As Shelek Pasha talked on, of schools, of taxes, of laws, of government, to David, with no hat on--Samson without his hair--Hope's mind was working as it had never worked before. She realised what a prodigious liar Shelek Pasha was; for, talking benignly of equitable administration as he did, she recalled the dark stories she had heard of rapine and cruel imprisonment in this same mudirieh.

Suddenly Shelek Pasha saw the dark-blue eyes fastened upon his face with a curious intentness, a strange questioning; and the blue of the turquoise on the hand folded over the other in the grey lap did not quite reassure him. He stopped talking, and spoke in a low voice to his kavass, who presently brought a bottle of champagne--a final proof that Shelek Pasha was not an ascetic or a Turk. As the bottle was being opened the Pasha took up his string of beads and began to finger them, for the blue eyes in the poke bonnet were disconcerting. He was about to speak when Hope said, in a clear voice:

"Thee has a strange people beneath thee. Thee rules by the sword, or the word of peace, friend?" The fat, smooth hands fingered the beads swiftly. Shelek Pasha was disturbed, as he proved by replying in French--he had spent years of his youth in France: "Par la force morale, toujours, madame--by moral force, always," he hastened to add in English. Then, casting down his eyes with truly Armenian modesty, he continued in Arabic: "By the word of peace, oh woman of the clear eyes--to whom God give length of days!"

Shelek Pasha smiled a greasy smile, and held the bottle of champagne over the glass set for friend David.

Never in his life had David the Quaker tasted champagne. In his eyes, in the eyes of Framley, it had been the brew especially prepared by Sheitan to tempt to ruin the feeble ones of the earth. But the doublet of David's mind was all unbraced now; his hat was off, his Quaker drab was spotted with the grease of a roasted lamb. He had tasted freedom; he was near to license now.

He took his hand from the top of the glass, and the amber liquid and the froth poured in. At that instant he saw Hope's eyes upon his, he saw her hand go to the poke bonnet, as it were to unloosen the strings. He saw for the first time the turquoise ring; he saw the eyes of Shelek Pasha on Hope with a look prophesying several kinds of triumph, none palatable to him; and he stopped short on that road easy of gradient, which Shelek Pasha was macadamising for him. He put his hand up as though to pull his hat down over his eyes, as was his fashion when troubled or when he was setting his mind to a task.

The hat was not there; but Hope's eyes were on his, and there were a hundred Quaker hats or Cardinals' hats in them. He reached out quickly and caught Hope's hand as it undid the strings of her grey bonnet. "Will thee be mad, Hope?"

"All the world's mad but thee and me, David, and thee's a bit mad," she answered in the tongue of Framley.

"The gaud upon thy hand?" he asked sternly; and his eyes flashed from her to Shelek Pasha, for a horrible suspicion crept into his brain--a shameless suspicion; but even a Quaker may be human and foolish, as history has shown.

"The wine at thine elbow, David, and thine hat!" she answered steadily.

David, the friend of peace, was bitterly angry. He caught up the glass of champagne and dashed it upon the fine prayer-rug which Shelek Pasha had, with a kourbash, collected for taxes from a Greek merchant back from Tiflis--the rug worth five hundred English pounds, the taxes but twenty Turkish pounds.

"Thee is a villain, friend," he said to Shelek Pasha in a voice like a noise in a barrel; "I read thee as a book."

"But through the eyes of your wife, effendi; she read me first--we understand each other!" answered the Governor with a hateful smile, knowing the end of one game was at hand, and beginning another instantly with an intelligent malice.

Against all Quaker principles David's sinful arm was lifted to strike, but Hope's hand prevented him, and Shelek Pasha motioned back the Abyssinian slaves who had sprung forward menacingly from behind a screen.

Hope led the outraged David, hatless, into the street.


That evening the Two Strange People went to Abdul Huseyn, the jeweller, and talked with him for more than an hour; for Abdul Huseyn, as Egyptians go, was a kindly man. He had taught Arabic to David and Hope. He would have asked more than twelve pieces of silver to betray them.

The next afternoon a riot occurred around the house of the Two Strange People and the school they had built; and Shelek Pasha would have had his spite of them, and his will of the donkey-market, the school, and the cotton-fields, but for Abdul Huseyn and three Sheikhs, friends of his--at a price--who addressed the crowd and quieted them. They declared that the Two were mad folk with whom even the English folk would have naught to do; that they were of those from whom God had taken the souls, leaving their foolish bodies on earth, and were therefore to be cared for and protected, as the Koran said, be they infidel or the Faithful.

Furthermore, said Abdul Huseyn, in proof of their madness and a certain sort of holiness, they wore hats always, as Arabs wore their turbans, and were as like good Mahommedans as could be, sitting down to speak and standing up to pray. He also added that they could not be enemies of the Faithful, or a Christian Mudir would not have turned against them. And Abdul Huseyn prevailed against Shelek Pasha--at a price; for Hope, seeing no need for martyrdom, had not hesitated to open her purse.

Three days afterward, David, with Abdul Huseyn, went to the Palace of the Khedive at Cairo, and within a week Shelek Pasha was on his way to Fazougli, the hot Siberia. For the rage of the Khedive was great when he heard what David and Abdul Huseyn told him of the murderous riot Shelek Pasha had planned. David, being an honest Quaker--for now again he wore his shovel hat--did not realise that the Khedive had only hungered for this chance to confiscate the goods of Shelek Pasha. Was it not justice to take for the chosen ruler of the Faithful the goods an Armenian Christian had stolen from the poor? Before David left the Palace the Khedive gave him the Order of the Mejidfeh, in token of what he had done for Egypt.

In the end, however, David took three things only out of Egypt: his wife, the Order of the Mejidfeh, and Shelek Pasha's pardon, which he strove for as hard as he had striven for his punishment, when he came to know the Khedive had sent the Mudir to Fazougli merely that he might despoil him. He only achieved this at last, again on the advice of Abdul Huseyn, by giving the Khedive as backsheesh the Syrian donkey-market, the five hundred feddans of cotton, and Hope's new school. Then, believing in no one in Egypt any more, he himself went with an armed escort and his Quaker hat, and the Order of the Khedive, to Fazougli, and brought Shelek Pasha penniless to Cairo.

Nowadays, on the mastaba before his grandson's door, Abdul Huseyn, over ninety "by the grace of Allah," still tells of the backsheesh he secured from the Two Strange People for his help on a certain day.

In Framley, where the whole truth never came, David and Hope occasionally take from a secret drawer the Order of the Mejidfeh to look at it, and, as David says, to "learn the lesson of Egypt once again." Having learned it to some purpose--and to the lifelong edification of old friend Fairley, the only one who knew the whole truth--they founded three great schools for Quaker children. They were wont to say to each other, as the hurrying world made inroads on the strict Quaker life to which they had returned: "All the world's mad but thee and me, and thee's a bit mad."



Aiwa, effendi----Yea, noble sir. Allah----God. Allah-haly 'm alla-haly----A singsong of river-workers. Allah Kerim----God is bountiful. Allshu Akbar----God is most Great. A'l'meh----Female professional singers Antichi----Antiquities.

Backsheesh----Tip, douceur, bribe. Balass----Earthen vessel for carrying water. Basha----Pasha. Bersim----Grass. Bimbashi----Major. Bishareen----A native tribe. Bismillah----In the name of God. Bowab----A doorkeeper.

Corvee----Forced labour.

Dahabeah----A Nile houseboat with large lateen sails.

Darabukkeh----A drum made of a skin stretched over an earthenware funnel. Doash----(Literally) Treading. A ceremony performed on the return of the Holy Carpet from Mecca.


Effendina----Highness. El aadah----The ordinary. El Azhar----The Arab University at Cairo. Fantasia----Celebration with music, dancing, and processions. Farshoot----The name of a native tribe. Fatihah----The opening chapter of the Koran, recited at weddings, etc.

Feddan----The most common measure of land--a little less than an acre. Also dried hay. Fellah (plu. fellaheen)----The Egyptian peasant. Felucca----A small boat, propelled by oars or sails. Fessikh----Salted fish. Ghaffirs----Humble village officials.

Ghawdzee----The tribe of public dancing-girls. A female of this tribe is called "Ghazeeyeh," and a man "Ghazee," but the plural Ghawazee is generally understood as applying to the female.

Ghimah----The Mahommedan Sunday.

Gippy----Colloquial name for an Egyptian soldier.

Goolah----Porous water-jar of Nile mud.


Hanouti----Funeral attendants. Hari-kari----An Oriental form of suicide. Hashish----Leaves of hemp. Inshallah----God willing. Jibbeh----Long coat or smock, worn by dervishes. Kavass----An orderly. Kemengeh----A cocoanut fiddle. Khamsin----A hot wind of Egypt and the Soudan.

Khedive----The title granted in 1867 by the Sultan of Turkey to the ruler of Egypt. Khiassa----Small boat. Khowagah----Gentleman. Koran----The Scriptures of the Mahommedans. Kourbash----A stick, a whip.

La ilaha illa-llah----There is no God but God. Mafish----Nothing. Magnoon----Fool. Malaish----No matter. Mamour----A magistrate. Mankalah----A game. Mastaba----A bench. Mejidieh----A Turkish Order. Mirkaz----District. Moghassils----Washers of the dead. Moufetish----High steward. Mudir----A Governor of a Mudirieh or province. Muezzin----The sheikh of the mosque who calls to prayer. Mushrabieh----Lattice window.

Naboot----Quarter staff. Narghileh----The Oriental tobacco-pipe. Nehar-ak koom said----Greeting to you. Omdah----The head of a village.

Ooster----One of the best sort.

Ramadan----The Mahommedan season of fasting. Reis----Pilot.

Saadat el basha----Excellency.


Sakkia----Persian water-wheel.

Salaam----A salutation of the East; an obeisance, performed by bowing very low and placing the right palm on the forehead and on the breast.

Sarraf----An accountant.

Shadoof----Bucket and pole used by natives for lifting water.

Sha'er----A reciter. (The singular of Sho'ara, properly signifying a poet.)

Sheikh-el-beled----Head of a village.

Shintiyan----Very wide trousers, worn by the women of the middle and higher orders.

Sitt----"The Lady."

Tarboosh----Fez or native turban. Tarah----A veil for the head.

Ulema----Learned men.

Waled----A boy. Wekeel----A deputy. Welee----A favourite of Heaven; colloquially a saint.

Yashmak----A veil for the lower part of the face. Yelek----A long vest or smock, worn over the shirt and shintiyan.

Zeriba----A palisade

[The end]
Gilbert Parker's short story: All The World's Mad