I was the only reporter there, so if the reader doesn’t believe the following account of what occurred last night in the shadow of the Great Sphinx of Giza, I shall be constrained to resort to Munchausen’s unanswerable retortâ€””Vass you dere, Sharlie?”
The frozen-faced man of the pyramid field in the valley of the Nile was bedding himself down for the night when a slight commotion in the sands below attracted his attention.
Old frozen-face stirred. He frowned. Or was it the play of moonbeams on his face that made me think he was frowning? Anyway, he didn’t seem to enjoy the idea of intruders at this time of the night. It was past midnight, an hour when decent Egyptians are fast asleep. Who could these prowlers be and what might they want of old Harmachis?
“I hope they’re not tourists,” I distinctly heard Harry grumble. “It’s bad enough I have to keep my face grim and my lips tight when they’re snooping around here in the daytime. There should be a law against those mugs prowling in these parts after sundown. I’ve got to let my face relax and my lips ought to get some exercise once in a while, or one of these days I’ll just up and explode all over a gang of gangling teachers.”
Just then there was a sound as of somebody scratching. “Psst! Hey, Harry, wake up. It’s me.”
“And who the heck are you?” I thought I heard the tough old sun-god bark, but on this I must have been mistaken. At any rate I am willing to concede that Giza’s leading industry might not have spoken thus gruffly.
Soon the scratching ceased and was replaced by the sound of footsteps on stone. Rounding the right paw of Harmachis, I was somewhat astounded to see three men whom I had little difficulty recognizing.
One of them had a long white beard and he carried a couple of stone tablets on which were some rather familiar inscriptions in Hebrewâ€”ten of them, in fact. Next to him was a man with a peculiar mustache and his right arm was raised aloft in a familiar gesture. On this man’s right was a smooth-shaven person, round of face, bright of eye, firm of tread and, without a doubt, clear of conscience. He bore a brief case.
“Well, well, well,” Harmachis said in what was meant to be a stage whisper, “if it isn’t my old, my very old friend Moses.”
“Yes, Harry, it’s Moses,” calmly replied the bearded man, who seemed not at all out of breath from the climb and therefore afforded a striking contrast to his two younger companions, who were quite audibly and painfully puffing.
“Glad to see you after all these years, Moe. But whatever brings you here at this ungodly hour?” the sphynx said.
“Well, Harry, it’s a long story. But first let me introduce my two companions. This one with the upraised arm is Herr Hitler. He is known as Reichsfuehrer in his country. The other fellow is Arthur Garfield Hays, an attorney representing the American Civil Liberties Union. Not a bad guy, Harry, although the company he sometimes keeps is a bit strange.”
“Objection!” somewhat automatically piped up the gentleman known as Hays.
“Objection overruled,” the lawgiver who may have invented the phrase shot back.
“Why the devil does that monkey keep his arm up like that?” Harmachis interrupted here, evidently unable to restrain his curiosity any longer.
“Oh, that,” said Moses, “that seems to be a custom some bird by the name of Mussolini started in Italy. This fellow one day decided to emulate II Duce, as he is known to the headline writers on newspapers. So he lifted his hand in the same manner and now he can’t seem to let it down.”
“It’s cute, at that,” Harmachis murmured, and seemed lost in thought as if wondering how nice it would be to be able to walk around with one of his paws stuck aloft instead of folded everlastingly underneath his rather ponderous bulk.
“But to get down to business, if you have no objections,” Moses interrupted the sphynx’s revery. “By some quirk of fate I suddenly found myself in the company of this fellow Hitler. Perhaps I shouldn’t call it fate. My co-religionists, who have been in trouble before, as you well know, Harry, petitioned me through the American Jewish Congress to do something about this fellow. It seems he’s been breaking the law. In fact he is accused of breaking all ten of my commandments, with the possible exception of the seventh. My co-religionists, in Germany particularly, have been oppressed by this fellow in a manner not dissimilar to that employed by the Pharaohs. They have asked my aid. So one day, while traveling incognito through the Reich I picked this fellow up by the nape of the neck and brought him to Egypt, where I seem to be able to think much more clearly.
“Now, Harry, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t undertake to do for the German Jews what I once did for the Egyptian Israelites.
“As a matter of fact, I thought of trying that stunt myself. But times have changed. In those days, it was a comparatively simple matter to make a getaway. All poor Pharaoh had to catch us with were a lot of mangy old horses and rickety carts. But these people over in Germany have airplanes and such and I’m afraid that with those winged animals they’d overhaul us in a trice and the exodus, might develop into something else.
“Anyway, my friends don’t seem to have anything much against the land itself or against the large majority of the people there. All they seem to object to is this fellow and a few of his friends, like Goebbels, Goering, Streicher, Hanfstaengl and one or two others. So I thought the best thing to do would be to pick up the leader and look him over.
“Once the leader is gone, I figured, the rest would soon eliminate each other in the scramble for his place. In the ensuing difficulties they would forget about my coreligionists and everything, as Hays here, who I notice is getting fidgety at the length of my speech, would say, is hunky-dory.
“Well, now that I have this fellow on my hands, I’ll be blest if I know what to do with him. Passing by just now, with him in tow and with Hays here, whom I brought along to protect Der ex-Fuehrer’s right of free speech, I noticed you were just about to go to bed. I thought you might have some ideas on what disposition to make of him. Understand, please, Harry, that I’ve already decided he deserves punishment of some sort. what I can’t make up my mind about is the type of punishment that will best fit his crime.”
While Moses was speaking, Harmachis, the cagey old stoney-puss, seemed lost in thought. That the thought had its humorous slant was apparent from the grin that was planted around his lips.
“Moe, old friend,” the sun-god finally spoke, the semblance of a chuckle creeping in between the commas, “I’ve got a swell idea. You can help me. You know, it’s getting boring lying here on my haunches all these centuries, with nobody to visit with except a lot of silly tourists, and keeping my mouth shut for the sake of a stupid tradition, when I’ve wanted like the dickens to make a snappy comeback to some of their half-baked cracks.
“This fellow here, has given me an idea. I think going around with my paw stuck up like that and being able to shoot off my mouth would sort of give me a new lease on life. Imagine me calling that there Reichstag of his together. Whooie! Would I pitch it into them! How I’d burn them up!
“Now here’s my plan. With your pull with Yaweh, you can do it for me. Clap your hands or something, say a few words of magic and presto! I shall become Reichsfuehrer, with my hand stuck up on high, and my mouth wide open. And he, he shall turn to stone and bed himself down in my place. What a sphynx he shall be! The tourists will eat him up. He’ll be a sensation. Egypt will be able to pay off her national debt in two weeks’ time. What do you say, Moe?”
“A capital idea,” the law-giver agreed. “It shall be done.”
“But wait,” Harmachis said, “before you proceed with the change. Reach into that closet there and get my flit-gun and give Adolf a thorough going-over with it. After all, if he’s goin to use my bed …”
Hitler didn’t seem to enjoy the flit-gun going-over. He sort of wilted.
When it was done, Moses clapped his hands and the transformation of Hitler to a Harmachis the sphynx and the sphynx to Hitler was completed.
“And now Harmachis-Hitler, be gone,” Moses said with a smile “and burn those Reichstag boys up as they haven’t been burned since that phoney fire.”
“Heil, Moses,” the new Hitler responded, raising aloft a paw that unmistakably had claws on it. “It shall be as you say.”
“And as for you, Arthur Garfield Hays,” Moses said, turning to the attor#ey, who had been strangely silent during the entire procedure, “it shall be your duty to stay by the side of this new sphynx and see that his right of free speech is protected. However, if he so much as opens his mouth while you are on duty you run the risk of being turned into one of those pyramids. Selah and so long!”
Afterwards, when quiet once more had settled down on the field of pyramids, the reporter, who had observed these strange goings-on, sauntered up and demanded an interview with Hays.
“I refuse to be quoted,” Hays responded.