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"Mustapha Ali" from Chicago Herald American

by Ellis Parker Butler
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  • NEWSPAPER: Chicago Herald American (January 4, 1942) "Mustapha Ali"   A story. Illustrated by N. P. Steinberg.  [EPBLIB]

from Chicago Herald American
Mustapha Ali
by Ellis Parker Butler

Enterprise and enthusiasm and originality are mighty good qualities, and every rug man should have them; but I say that Arthur Collop let them run away with him in this matter of Mustapha Ali and the camelhair rugs.

'Mustapha Ali' by Ellis Parker Butler

Arthur Collop was the young fellow who started the rug store in Westcote, on Long Island, and he used good enough sense in selecting most of his stock, but he overbought terribly in camelhair rugs, and every time he saw the big pile of camelhair rugs he felt ill. The domestics sold and he had to reorder again and again, but the camelhairs just wouldn't move.

It was about this time that his Uncle Henry came over from Coney Island to see Arthur and to try to borrow $60 from him, and Arthur let him have the money. It was along about the 1st of June and nearly time for the Coney Island season to open, and Arthur's Uncle Henry said that he would have plenty of money then and could pay Arthur back. Uncle Henry ran a show at Coney Island called "Houris of the Desert," with dancing girls and imitation sheiks and one old camel called Mustapha Ali to help out the general effect; but he had run short of money during the Winter, what with buying hay for the camel and one thing and another.

"Well, I certainly do thank you, Arthur," Uncle Henry said, as he put the money in his pocket. "I don't mind saying that this is a lifesaver for me, my boy, and I appreciate it. If I can ever do anything for you, just say so, and it's done."

A Brilliant Idea

The next day Arthur was staring at his camelhair rugs, wondering how he could move them, when he thought of his Uncle Henry. And like a flash the bright idea came to him.

"Joe," he said to his salesman, "you watch the store until I get back. I'm going down to Coney Island to see my Uncle Henry, and if I don't get back by closing time, don't worry. I've got a big idea -- a whale of a big idea, Joe."

As it happened, Arthur Collop did not get back to the store before closing time. The reason was that he was bringing Mustapha All -- Uncle Henry's camel -- with him and he had to walk, leading the camel, and it is a long walk from Coney Island to Westcote. It was midnight by the time that Arthur and the camel reached the rug store.

Arthur unlocked the front door and led the animal through the store and out the back door and turned him loose in the small backyard. He couldn't very well take the camel home with him, because Arthur lived in a boarding house and even the best-tempered landladies object to camels in bedrooms.

Early the next morning Arthur hunted up Joe -- it was Sunday -- and they got soap at a delicatessen shop and a dozen packages of Coloro, light tan shade, at a drug store, and they went to the rug shop to tidy up the camel. It was a big job, because the camel had been pretty badly neglected during the Winter and was wadded with mud and thick with dirt, but Arthur and Joe scrubbed and washed and rinsed the camel until it was as clean as a new pin; and then they dissolved the Coloro in fresh water -- and Coloro won't injure the finest fabric but restores its beautiful original hue -- and they bathed the camel again in this, from hump to hoofs.

By this time the camel was cleaner and brighter than it had ever been in its life, but Arthur and Joe started in with a brush and comb and went over every inch of the camel, until all it needed was a marcel wave to set up in business as a professional beauty.

"There now," Arthur said. "There's a camel that I call a camel, Joe. If cleanliness is next to godliness, this is the next-to-godliest camel I ever saw!"

"Absolutely," Joe agreed. "I'd eat my dinner off that camel's hump with never a qualm."

Off to Work

The next day Arthur polished his shoes and put on his best suit and his handsomest tie and, after lunch, he went to the back yard of the shop and took the camel's lead rope in his hand.

"Come on, Mustapha Ali," he said. "Step lively; you and I are going to do a little rug business this afternoon."

In his pocket -- and in his mind, as well -- Arthur Collop had a list of the sizes and prices of all his camelhair rugs. When he led the camel out the front door of the shop there was quite a little interest shown by those who saw Arthur and Mustapha Ali, because camels are not very common on the main street of Westcote; but Arthur hurried on and the camel followed meekly at the end of the rope, dragging back only about enough to pull Arthur's right arm out of its socket.

First on List

The first place that Arthur planned to visit was the home of Mrs. Edbury Jupps on Guppert Av., because the Jupps had plenty of money, and a few camelhair rugs more or less meant nothing to the Jupps if they could be interested in them. So Arthur led Mustapha Ali into the Jupp yard and up on the Jupp veranda, and rang the doorbell. A maid came to the door and the instant she saw the camel on the veranda she slammed the door, saying something that sounded like "Gul-up!" and Arthur had to ring the bell long and hard before the door reopened a crack as wide as a pencil.

"I would like to see Mrs. Jupp," Arthur said, pushing his card through the crack.

"What's that there animal?" asked the maid.

"This is a camel," answered Arthur. "Will you please tell Mrs. Jupp that Mr. Collop is here with a camel and would like to see her?"

Naturally -- and just as Arthur Collop had expected -- the word that a camel was on the veranda surprised Mrs. Jupp.

"A camel? I didn't order a camel," she said to the maid. "Are you sure he didn't say caramels?"

Not that she had ordered caramels, either; but it was almost impossible to believe that there was a camel on the veranda, while some one might have brought caramels by mistake.

"No, ma'am," said the maid. "It's a camel, sure enough -- I saw the hump."

"Well!" exclaimed Mrs. Jupp. "And Mr. Collop asked for me?"

"Yes, ma'am. By name he asked for you."

"Very well. I'll go down," said Mrs. Jupp; and she went down and opened the front door. There stood Arthur Collop with his hat in one hand, and there stood the camel looking over Arthur's shoulder, chewing its cud indolently.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Jupp," Arthur said pleasantly. "I hope I haven't interrupted you in the midst of anything important; but I wished to give you the first choice, so I brought this camel here."

'Feel it,' said Arthur. 'Note the resilient elasticity. Observe the sheen...'

Doesn't Want Camel

"Brought it here?" cried Mrs. Jupp. "But I don't want a camel. Mr. Collop. I wouldn't think of buying a camel. I don't want a first choice of camels."

"A first choice of its hair," said Arthur. "I am offering you the first choice of the hair of this magnificent animal. This camel is not for sale at any price. It is a priceless camel. This is Mustapha Ali, the champion camel hair grower of the world!"

"Really!" exclaimed Mrs. Jupp, looking at the beast with more interest.

"Yes, mam. And I bring the camel to your door so that you may choose from it the hair you prefer, to be made into a beautiful camelhair rug. You choose the hair, Mrs. Jupp, and I deliver the rug."

"Really!" exclaimed Mrs. Jupp again, and she was now frankly interested. "It's quite an idea, isn't it?"

His Own Idea

"My own idea," said Arthur. He went on to say that it was ridiculous for people of good taste to accept camelhair rugs that might be made from the hair of rundown and debilitated camels when they could select superb hair on the camel itself.

Presently he had Mrs. Jupp so interested that she was walking around the camel, feeling the hair on one side of it and feeling the hair on the other. She could not have been more interested if she had been choosing a Thanksgiving turkey. She twisted some of the hair that grew in one place and some that grew in another, but she could not quite make up her mind whether she had better order a rug made from the west side or the east side of the camel, or whether to select from the fore or after end of the handsome animal.

"I'll tell you frankly," said Arthur, "that any hair from a camel like this is first class, but if you want my personal advice I'd certainly take hair from the middle of the neck."

"Yes," said Mrs. Jupp. "That certainly looks like nice hair."

"Feel it," said Arthur. "Note the resilient elasticity. Observe the sheen, the patina, the elusive but delightful hue."

By this time he was getting enthusiastic. He was getting too enthusiastic.

"Yes, Mrs. Jupp," he said, "as an expert camelist I advise you to choose the eastern exposure of the middle neck. If this were an ordinary hay-fed camel I would say 'choose the west flank, Mrs. Jupp,' but this not a hay-fed camel, Mrs. Jupp. This is an alfalfa-fed camel."

"Doesn't it eat anything but alfalfa?" Mrs. Jupp asked.

"Well, dates, of course," said Arthur. "Alfalfa for strength and durability of hair and a handful of dates each day to make the hair resilient and glossy. Nothing else. You don't know the care an animal like this is, Mrs. Jupp. Constant care! Why, Mrs. Jupp, if this superb camel ate even a mouthful of anything but alfalfa and dates its hair would be ruined -- positively ruined. If you knew how a camel like this has to be watched..."

Unfortunately, at that moment the camel lifted up its head and saw Mrs. Jupp's luscious bed of tulips on the lawn, and without warning it jerked the rope from Arthur's hand and loped down the steps into the middle of the tulip bed, where it began to eat tulips with the utmost greediness. This was too bad, because Mrs. Jupp had planted the most expensive bulbs, hoping to win a blue ribbon at the Westcote Flower Show, and before Arthur could wallop the camel out of the tulip bed the hungry beast had eaten $42.50 worth of tulips.

No Sale

"It's all right," said Arthur; "it's all right -- I'll pay for the tulips."

"You certainly will," said Mrs. Jupp, "and furthermore, Mr. Col-lop, I will ask you to take that camel away from here immediately. And I certainly don't want any rug made from its hair now."

"But, Mrs. Jupp --"

"No." said Mrs. Jupp, positively.

"It's hair is ruined -- It has eaten tulips."

Arthur Collop was pushing the camel, trying to keep it away from the tulip bed, and he had both hands braced against the camel's middle, but business is business and he saw that he had to do some quick thinking, so he turned his head and began to explain to Mrs. Jupp that tulips were quite another matter.

Ah, Tulips

"Tulips, Mrs. Jupp -- get over there, you old skeleton! -- are good for -- bite me, will you, you worthless bag of bones! -- are good for hair. A few tulips in the Spring."

He was going on to say that a few tulips were just what was needed to put a camel's hair in perfect condition, when Mustapha Ali uttered a squeal of joy and sped away so swiftly that Arthur fell flat on his face. It was Monday and the wash lady, Mrs. Caroline Casey, was just taking in the dry clothes from the line and Mustapha Ali was definitely interested.

Mrs. Casey was as fat as butter, and undoubtedly Mustapha Ali thought that she was Fatima, a lady whom he had known at Coney Island who fed him dates and who was also as fat as butter. But Mrs. Casey did not know this, and she screamed with terror and fled into the house, and up the back stairs -- two flights of them -- to the attic, with Mustapha Ali following her.

The ten policemen in the five radio cars that came when Mrs. Jupp telephoned found Mrs. Casey in a large cedar chest, yelling "Help! Help!" in a smothered voice, while Mustapha Ali stood calmly eating the stuffing of an old sofa.

It was quite a job getting Mustapha Ali out of the attic. Perhaps it was because he preferred twenty-year-old sofa stuffing to tulips, or it may have been because he hated to leave Mrs. Casey; but with eight policemen pushing him and two going ahead and carrying the old sofa to coax him, and with Arthur Collop pulling the lead rope, the crowd managed to get the camel downstairs and out of the house.

By that time there were five or six hundred people gathered on the lawn and in the street, attracted by the sight of the police cars, and when they saw the camel they gave three cheers.

"None of that now!" shouted the biggest policeman. "Go on about yer business -- all of yez!"

"Wait, officer," Arthur begged. "While these people are here let me say just a few words about camelhair rugs to them."

"I will not!" said the policeman. "And you'll be coming with me, to the police judge. You're under arrest for paradin' a camel on the streets without a license."

Down to Court

Well, the policeman and Arthur Collop and Mustapha Ali went down to the court house, and when the judge heard the complaint that Arthur had paraded a camel without getting a parade license he was going to fine Arthur ten dollars, but Billy Briggs, a smart young lawyer, was there and he spoke to Arthur and took his case.

"Judge," he said, "this accusation that my client paraded a camel is a mistake. The animal is not a camel. A camel has two humps and this animal has only one hump and is a dromedary."

"Be it so," said the judge. "The court will be logical. Ten dollars for two humps would be five dollars a hump; I fine you five dollars, Mr. Collop."

And that is why Arthur Collop handles domestic rugs only now. He can be as soundly enterprising and enthusiastic and original as he pleases and without using a camel. Or a dromedary!



Saturday, October 07 at 1:20:23am USA Central
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