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Desert love


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Title:DesertLove
Author:JoanConquest
ReleaseDate:March3,2005[EBook#15242]
Language:English
***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKDESERTLOVE***

ProducedbyAlHaines


DESERTLOVE
BY
JOANCONQUEST

Authorof"LeonieoftheJungle"



NEWYORK
THEMACAULAYCOMPANY

Copyright,1920
ByTHEMACAULAYCOMPANY

PRINTEDINTHEU.S.A.


TOM.F.


CONTENTS
PARTI
THESEED

PARTII
THEFLOWER

PARTIII
THEFRUIT


PARTI
THESEED


DESERTLOVE
CHAPTERI
JilllookedattheEast!
Atherfeetsathuddledgroupsofwomen,justbundlesofblackrobes,somewith
discsabouttheirnecks,somewithchainsorgoldencrescentsupontheforehead,
allwearingtheburko[yashmakorfaceveil]coveringtheentirefacewiththe
exceptionoftheeyes,andheldinpositionbetweentheeyebrowsbythequaint
tube-shapedselva,fasteningittothetarhah,theflowingblackveilwhichnearly
touchesthegroundbehind,coversthehead,andpulleddowntotheeyebrows
leavesjustthebeautifuldarkeyestobeseen,glancinguptimidly—inthiscase
—atthegolden-haired,blue-eyedgirlabovethem.
Menofdifferentclassesstoodaround,orsquattedontheirheelsuponthe


ground,allinflowingrobesofdifferentcolouringandvariousstagesof
cleanliness,somewithheadscoveredinturbans,somewiththetarboosh,others
withthekahleelyahorheadhandkerchief,allchatteringwiththeexceptionofthe
higherclassesandtheBedouins,thelatterclothedinwhite,withthedistinctive
thongofcamel'shairwoundabouttheheadcovering,armsfoldedandface
passivelyserene,lookingasthoughtheyhadsteppedrightoutoftheOld
Testamentontothefly-ridden,sunbakedstationofIsmailiah;whilstvendorsof
cakes,sticky,meltingsweets,andsmalloranges,wanderedinandoutofthe
crowdscreamingtheirwares.ShoutsoflaughterdrewJill'sattentiontotheother
sideofthestation,where,withtermsofendearmentmixedwithblood-curdling
threats,adetachmentofBritishsoldiersgettingreadytostartenrouteforSuez
wereurging,coaxing,strivingtomakethatmostobstinateofanimals,thecamel,
gettoitsfeetsometimebeforemidnight.
Fromthemshelookedatagroupofnativedwellingsmadeofsunbakedclay.
Smallsquarebuildings,lookinginthedistancelikeout-houses,withscarcely


perceptiblewindows,andflatroofsgivenovertopoultry.Nearthemthepatient
bullockdiditsmonotonousround,drawingthepreciouswaterfromthewell
withwhichtomoistenthearidlittlepatchofearthfromwhichthefellahextracts
thesoverylittlenecessarytohiminhislife.
Aclumpofslenderpalms,likeforgottenscaffolding,stoodoutclearagainstthe
intenseblueofthesky;thedesert,thatwonderfulmagneticplain,stretchedaway
inmileuponmileofyellownothingness,untilasminuteasfliesonayellow
floor,growingmoredistinctateverystep,withsolemnandexceedinggreat
dignitystalkedastringofcamels,eachanimalfastenedbyaropetothesaddleof
theoneinfront,eachapparentlyunconsciousofitsseeminglyoverwhelming
burden,aswithheadsswayingslightlyfromsidetosidewiththatairofdisdain
whichthedameofBelgraviaunsuccessfullytriestoimitatewhenessayingto
crushtheinhabitantofSuburbiabymeansoflong-handledlorgnettesrestingon
theshinyarchofheraristocraticnose,theyrespondedwithoutfailtothesoft
musicalvoiceoftheArabseatedcross-leggedontheleader.
ThenhereyesturnedtotheWest.
TothemixedmobwhichhadrushedfromtheNorddeutscherLloydatSuez,
leavingthegreatlinertothewisefew,whileperspiringandquerulous,and
altogetherunpleasant,theyhadfilledthelittletrainwhichchuffsitswayalong
theedgeofthecanaltoIsmailiah,andthroughthedustandfly-ladenmilesto
Cairo,whereitturnsitsburdenouttoclamourandarguevociferouslywiththe
wilydragomanwhowouldtakeaherdofelephantsto"do"thePyramidsinone
hourifthebacksheeshprovedsubstantialenough.
Withabsoluteloathingshegazedatthosewithwhomshehadpassedsomany
wearydaysonthereturnjourneyfromAustralia.
TherewereofacertaintypeofEnglishwomennotafew,sunburnt,loudof
voice,leanofbreastandnarrowofhip.
Theirsisters,wiserandbetterendowedbynature,hadremainedontheliner,
takingadvantageoftheemptyconditionsoftheboattorepairtheravagedoneto
complexionandwardrobebythesizzling,salt-ladenwindwhichhadtortured
themsinceColombohadbeenleftbehind.
Twodaughtersandamotherstoodalooflyintheshadethrownbythe
indescribablewaiting-room;themotherstilllabouringunderthedelusionthatif


youcan'taffordtosendyourgirlsproperlywardrobedonavisittorelationsin
India,thenextbestmethodofannexinghusbandsforthemistotakethem
hackingonalongseavoyage.Forhasitnotbeenknownthatmanyamandriven
tothevergeofmadnessbytheeverlastingsightofflyingfish,andtheas
enduringsoundofthesoftplopofthelittlebull-boardsandbag,hasbecome
engagedto"aperfectlyim-poss-iblepersoninthesecondclass,youknow,"soas
tobreakthedeadlymonotonyofhissurroundings.
TheydidnotwanttoseeCairooranyotherpartofEgypt,fortheEastsaid
nothingtothem,evenarushviewofthePyramidsfailingtostirtheirshallow
hearts;buttheyknewtoashadetheeffectontheirlessfortunatefriendswhenin
courseoftimetheyshouldmurmur,"Youremember,dear,thewinterwewerein
Cairo."
AddedtothesetherewereraucousAustralians,clumsilybuiltgutturalGermans,
infacttheusualomniumgatherum,unavoidable,alas!onaseavoyage,clothed
inshortskirts,shirtwaists,squashhats,andthickbootsas"theyweregoing
trampingaboutthesands,"andeach,ofcourse,loadedwiththeinevitable
camerawhichgivesdireoffencetomanyaneasternofhigherrank,whohates
beingphotographedwilly-nillyalongwithalltheother"onlyanative"habitsof
thewesterner,whowiththeoneword"nigger"describestheRajahofIndia,the
SheikofArabia,theHottentotandtheChristyMinstrel.
Freeforonedayfromtherestrainingmannersofthoseotherswhoatthatvery
momentweredoubtlessreturningthanksondecktoAllahforhismanifold
blessingsintheshapeofsomefewhoursofperfectpeace,afewmenofdifferent
nationalitieswereeitherboisterouslychaffingthelessplainoftheircompanions,
oroglingtheshrinkingEasternwomen,crouchingontheedgeoftheplatform.
Mr.Billingsinfact,inuncleancanvasshoesandafranticendeavourtofind
favourinthebistreenlargedeyesofacertainslimblackfigure,wasexecuting
theverydoubleshufflewhichhad"broughtdown"thesecondclassdining
saloonhonouredforthenoncebythepresenceofthefirstclass,ontheoccasion
ofoneofthepurgatorialconcertshabitualtosealifeasknownonboardaliner.


CHAPTERII
Jillstoodbyherself!
PersonallyIconsiderasinfinitelyboringthosedescriptionswrittenatlength
anentthepastlivesofthecharacters,maleandfemale,whichgotothebuilding
ofanovel,soinasfewwordsaspossiblewilltrytooutlinetheyearswhichhad
broughtJillCardentothedrearytaskofwaitinghandandfootuponthe
whimsiesofaneuroticGermanwomanofgreatwealth,andstillgreater
disinclinationtopartwiththesmallestcoinofanyrealmshemightbetravelling
through.
Jill,anonlychildandmotherless,hadledagloriouscare-freeexistence.
Adoredbyherfatherandhertwofriends,Moll,otherwisetheHonourableMary
BinghampronouncedBeam,oftheneighbouringestate,andJack,otherwiseSir
JohnWetherbourne,Baronet,ofthenextcounty,bigbrothertoJilland
worshipperattheshrineofMoll.Jillwasalsolovedbyallwhowaitedonher,
andsoughtafterbynotafewonaccountofhergreatwealth,andhadlaughed
herwaythroughseventeenyearsoflife,tofindherselfsuddenlyminusfather
andmoney,withnothingleftinfactbutanestatemortgagedtothesmallest
pebble,andaheart-wholepropositionfromherchumMollto"justcomeover
thewall"andrestartlaughingherwayasheradoptedsisterthroughthebitoflife
whichmightstretchfromthemomentofdisastertosuchtimethatsheshould
findalifecompanionwithwhomshecouldsettledownandlivehappilyever
after!
ButalthoughJill'sheadwasoutwardlycoveredwithgreatplaitsofauburnhair,
throughwhichbrokeriotous,frivolouscurls,theinsideheldadistinctlyactive
anddevelopedbrain,whichhadacquiredthehabitofthinkingdeeplyuponsuch
subjectsaswoman,wifeandmotherhood.
Addedtothis,whichisalreadyquiteenoughtoputoutofgearthelifeofanygirl


broughtupinconventionboundEngland,shehadaheartasbigasher
outrageouslongingfor,andloveofadventure,neitherofwhichbignessesshe
hadsofarbeenabletosatisfy.
AsIhavesaidthiswasquitebadenough,butthroughandaboveall,herwhole
ratherexceptionalbeingwasdesirousoflove.Nottheshapewhichclothesits
diseasedbodyinsoiledrobesofimitationsomethingatoneandelevenpence
threefarthingsperyard,andunderfernsinconservatories,inpuntsupbackwaters,instiflingtea-rooms,hotels,theatresandnight-clubs,exchangesslylook
forslylookandsoiledmouthforsoiledkisses,initsendeavourstopassitselfoff
asthatwonderfigurewhich,radiantofbrowandhumorousofmouth,deepof
breastandprofoundofthought,standsmotionlessinhighandby-wayswith
handsoutstretchedtothosefutilefigures,blindlyhurryingpasttheLovethey
fondlyimagineistobefoundinthefrontrowofthechorus,thelastrowofthe
cinema,ortheunrestrainedlicenceofthecountryhouse.
Jillhadneverflirtedandthereforehadknownnokissexceptingherfather's
matutinalandnocturnalpeck.Shelookeduponherbeautifulbodyassomejewel
tobeplacedinthehandsofthemansheloveduponherwedding-night,soitwas
asunsoiledandasuntaintedashermind,althoughsheknewthatoncesheloved
shewouldgodownbeforethatmightyforceasatreebeforeastorm.Dull,you
willsayallthis.Maybe!butmightyrefreshinginthesedayswhenamourette
followsamouretteassurelyasMondayfollowsSunday,theonlydifferencein
thestockbeingthetrademark,whichstampstheonewiththeoutlineofa
perfectlimousine,andtheotherwiththefrontseatonthetopofanomnibus;
thoughbelievemetheMondaysandSundaysdiffernotatall.
Jill'sideasonfranchiseandsuffrage,anda"goodtime"asseenfromthe
standpointoftheaveragesocietygirlorwomanwereabsolutelynil.
Shewantedfirstofallamaster,thenahome,andthenchildren,manyofthem.
Herideaoflovewasuttersubmissiontothemansheshouldlove.Heridealof
happinesshishappiness,andalthoughshehadnofixedideaofherhome,she
waspositivelycertainshedidnotwantlodgegatesandforelock-pulling
peasantry,nortamedeerinsideelaboratepalings,northewhite-cappednurse
stiffwithstarchtrundlingaperambulatorwithafat,ordinary,rosyheirtothe
palings,deer,andpullersoflocks.


Soshesweetlybutverydefinitelysaidnotoacertainmillionaire,whohad
earnedhisbankingaccountandthethanksofmanythousandsbyhisinvention
ofanon-poppingchampagnecork,andwho,adoringthegirl,hadhastenedthe
verydaythenewsofthesmashhadspreadthroughthecountry,likefireona
windyday,tolayhisportlyselfandallthatthereuntoadheredatherbeautiful
feet.Thedisgustofherrelativesuponherwantofcommonsensewas
outspoken;forhavingoverstockedtheirrespectivequiverswithcommonplace
femalearrows,theyquitenaturallylookedwithdismayuponanalmostbeautiful
andquitepennilessandhomelessgirlaboutwhom,afterhavingreadthewill
theyreferredtoas"poorJill,forwhomIsupposewemustdosomethingdon't
youknow?"withaquaveringinflectionattheendofthephrase.
ButJilldidnotstoponrefusingtheeligibleownerofanunmortgagedestate.
No!shesetouttolookforworkoffherownbat,andactuallyfounditinthat
occupationwhich,farlesspaidthanmore,opensupaperfectvistaofpossible
adventuresundertheguiseofatravellingcompanion.
ShespokeFrench,German,andItalianlikenatives,whichwasalltothegood.
ShedancedlikeaVernonCastle,knewalmostasmuchaboutfencingasa
Saviolo,shotlikeaGeorgeV.,androdelikeacowboy,allofwhich
qualificationssheerasedfromherlistontheterminationofthefreezinghalfhourofherfirstinterviewwithherfirstwould-beemployer,who,untilthe
enumerationoftheabovesportingqualifications,hadseemeddesirousoftaking
heralongwithabronchiticpugtowinterinBath.
SincethenshehaddoneEuropeandAfricaprettywellwithneverthesuspicion
ofanadventure,and,whenyoumeetheronthestationofIsmailiah,whereyou
changeforPortSaid,shewasreturningfromAustralia,withawardrobeatlast
beginningtofretaboutthehem,andshinearoundtheseams,acondition
accountedforbytheemaciatedconditionofherpurse;amemoryofgoodthings
andhourswornthinbytheconstantnerve-wrackingroutineofcapsules,hot
drinks,hotwaterbottles,moodsandshawls;andafullydevelopedrebellionin
herwholebeingagainstthenever-endingvistawhichstretchedfarintothe
future,ofothersuchhours,days,months,yea!evenyears!
Buteverythingwascappedbyastillmorefullydevelopeddecisiontobraveit
out,andout,andout,ratherthanreturntoaskthehelpofthosewhosehandclasphadweakenedinratiotothedwindlingofthegoldinhercoffers.


CHAPTERIII
Andwhydidshestandbyherself?
Thisisnoriddle,theanswerbeingtooeasy.Menwouldhaveanswered,
"Guessedinonce,shewaspretty!"Andthewomenwouldguessinoncetoo,but
wouldkeepsilent,theprettyonesmerelysmiling,havingsampledtheCoventrysendingpowersofplainwomeninthemajorityonboard,andtheplainones
fromthatunwillingnessinbornorinheritedineverywomantoadmitgoodlooks,
orgoodanythingforthatmatter,inamemberofherownsex.
Andshewaspretty,withtheprettinessofyouthalliedtogenuinered-goldhair,
andthebluestofblueeyes,whichlookedatyouindisconcertinglystraight
mannerfrombetweenthelongestblacklashesyoueversaw.
Shesoundsverymuchlikea"DaintyNovelheroine,"butIhavemetherandI
know,andshealsohadamouthturnedupatthecorners,andtheloveliestteeth,
anosewhichalsoturnedup,notunduly,andaskinonwhichlaythemerest
suspicionofpowderlikedustonabutterfly'swings,alsotwojetblackgrainsde
beauté,oneatthecornerofhermouthandtheotherontopoftheleftcheek,just
undertheoutsidecorneroftheeye.
Ravissante!Herbeautywasnature'sown,andshehadtheloveliest,longest,
narrowestfeetevershodandsilkenhosedbyAudet,andaslovelyoutofthe
silkenhoseasin.
Butallthat,thoughitpleasedtheeye,didnotreallyconstituteherrealcharm.It
wasmoretheideaofstrength,andbuoyancy,andtheloveofhumanityshegave
out,thatattractedyoungandold,richandpoor,dogs,children,andthesickof
soulandbodytoher.
Thetypeofwomanwhoownsthehusbandofaroamingdispositionandhasnot
gotaccustomedtothedisposition,orthewomaneagertoacquireahusbandof


anydispositionwhatever,likedhernotatall,failingtoseethatshewas
genuinelyuninterestedinotherpeople'smalebelongings.
Thosewhothinktoluremenbythemysteryofatobaccocloudpermanently
aroundthehead,ortostimulatebythesightofaglasswhichlookslike
lemonadebutisn't,nestlingamongtheeverlastingcardsandcigarettedebris,
dislikedherintensely,notsomuchbecauseshedidnotallyherselfwiththem,as
forthefactthatshedidnotrangeherselfagainstthem,havingevenbeenheard
toremarkthattheworldwouldbeadeadlydullplaceiseveryoneenjoyedthe
samepleasureandthesamewickedness.Justthreemoreitemstoaddtothelong
listagainstheronthisparticularvoyage.
Firstly,hadshenotonesizzlingRedSeadayappearedwithherhairhangingin
twogreatplaitsreachingbelowherknees?Whichescapademighthaveescaped
uncensuredifaccompaniedbythewhitisheye-lashes,forcefulfreckles,and
pungentaromausuallyalliedtoreddishhair,butasitwas,thecombinationof
thered-goldglorywithblackestcurlinglashes,skinlikesatin,andthefaintest
traceofDevonshirelavender,createdaperfectscandalamongthosewhoselocks
wereeitherlimplycurtainingtheirowner'scheeksorblindingtheeye,orcâchéd
undersomeheadcoveringwereacquiringawavewhichmightwithlucklastout
thedinnerandbridgehours.
Secondly,althoughapennilesscompanion,sheallowednofamiliarityfromthe
menandnocondescensionfromthewomen;andthirdly,hershoesgavereason
forenvy,hatred,malice,andalluncharitableness,beingonthedayyoumether
exquisitechampagnecolouredthings,hercriticslittleguessingthatthereason
sheworethemwasthatshehadnonethicker,andnomoneywherewithtobuy
any.
Thislastpointsoundsalmostabsurd,butthosewhoknowwillanydaybackthe
womanwithdaintyankles,prettyfeet,theglimpseofwhitelaceandaplainface,
againstthereallybeautifulcountenanceupabovetheshapelessankle-calf
combine,andthefootthatintwodaysgivesashoetheshapeofthebowsofa
dinghey.
Sobecauseofallthesereasons,alsobecauseallthenice,wisepeoplewholoved
herhavingstayedbehind,shestoodalone,herheartclamouringforlifeand
adventure,whichcomestoaboutthesamething,andwhichshesensedistobe
foundsomuchmoreeasilyintheEastshewasleavingbehindinthespaceofa


fewhours.TherestofherrebellingagainsttheWest,themonotonousdayson
theboatracingherbacktoEnglandinNovember,withnothingtodo,toomuch
toeat,andthetrailofmedicineglasses,cushions,gouty,dyspeptic,andneurotic
employerslengtheningintothedrabfuture.
"Allah!helpme!"shewhispered,andreallymeaningit,assheturnedtolook
againatthecamelsstalkingonintothedesert,andfindingherselfinstead
lookingstraightintotheeyesofanArabstandingbehindher.
Andhere,Ihope,endeththedullestpartofthebook.


CHAPTER17
Arabsasaracearetall,mostofthemhavingagravelookofnobility,allwithout
exception,inheritingfromtheirforefathersIshmailorJohtanthatairofstudied
calm,thatseldomsmiling,neverrestlessattitude,whichexpressestheheightof
dignityandgravity.Thereweremanyoftheminthismotleystationcrowd,also
Bedouins,smallerofstature,andthemembersofthemanyothertribeswhichgo
topopulatingthegreatEgyptiandesert.Butnotoneofallthemen,magnificent
thoughsomeofthemwere,couldcomparewithHahmedtheCamelKing,who,
standingaloneandmotionlesswithfoldedarms,lethiseyesrestuponthismost
fairwomanfromtheWest.
Jillwasaccustomedtobeinglookedat,fromtheimpudentstareof
Frenchmen,theopenlookofadmiration,bothmaleandfemale,ofthe
Italian,tothenever-to-be-forgottenlookofBerlinthathadseemedto
undressandleavehernakedinthestreet.
Butnowundergravescrutinyshefeltthecolour,whichmadeherevenmore
lovely,risingfromchintobrow,andlongedtocoverherfaceortorunawayand
hide,thoughtherewasnothingbutawonderingrespectintheArab'seyes.
Foronemomenthiseyesmethers,thensheslowlyloweredtheheavywhitelids
withtheirfringeofcurlinglashes,and,turning,stoodlookingoutoverthe
desert,whereshenolongersawthestretchesofyellowsand,northeairingof
camelsstalkingawayintothedistance,northemudhousesandpatientbullocks.
No!nothingofallthese,butinstead,justoneman'sface,oval,lean-featured,
eyesbrilliantlyblackanddeep-setunderthickeyebrows,anaquilinenose,the
lowerpartofthefacecoveredinasharppointedbeard,andthethickvirilehair
byasnow-whitekahleelyah,boundbyabandtothewell-shapedhead.
AmanwasheindeedwithawidthofshoulderrarelyseeninanArab,standing
welloversixfoot,inspotlesswhiterobessweepingtohisfeet,acloakoffinest
blackclothfallingoverallinswingingfolds,failing,however,tohidethatlook


oftremendousstrengthwhichimpressesonesoinsomeofthelong-limbed,lean,
muscularinhabitantsofthedesert.
Jillwalkedovertotheedgeoftheplatformwhich,asaruleisonlyraisedafew
inchesabovetherail,andafterafewsecondsbeckonedheremployer'sspecial
dragoman,whohadannexedhimselfatCairoandpresumablywouldonlybe
shakenoffondeck.
Hecameimmediately,allsmiles.
Alltheso-calledlowerclassessmileduponJill,fromthecosterinWhitechapel
totheKaffirattheCape.Andwhy?Why,becauseshesmiledwhensheaskeda
service.
"Bemoredignified!"shewouldindignantlyreplywhenremonstratedwithabout
thenative."Theycertainlyshowavarieddegreeofblacknessintheirskin,and
havelessbrainsthansomeofus,buttheyarehuman,soIshallcontinuetosmile
ifIlike,"andsmileshedid,andtheysmiledtooandrantodoherbidding.
Notthatsheindulgedinthe"ourdearblackbrother"viewsofthosepeoplewho,
fromutterlackofknowledgeuponthesubject,believethatwiththeexceptionof
acertaindifferenceinthepigmentwhichembellishestheskin,thelowesttypeof
Hottentothasthesameideals,desires,andoutlookonlifeasthehighestborn,or,
asIthinktobemorecorrect,Ishouldsay,thecleanestlivingindividualinthe
WesternHemisphere.
Shedidnotapproveofthepromiscuousminglingofthewhiteandblackasisso
oftenandsounhappilyseeninLondon,whereaservantgirlmaybe,will
ecstaticallyspendhereveningoutundertheprotectionofsomeebonyhued
productofAfricaand,labouringunderthedelusionthattheduskyswainisthe
directdescendantofCetewayo,alsototallylackingallknowledgeofAfrican
history,willfondlyimagineherselfaqueeninembryo,insteadofwhichsheis
merelythemeanstofeedthelustfullongingforthewhiteinsomeCapeboy,
whobelieveshehidestherollofhisnativewalkunderanexaggeratedskirtto
hisover-paddedcoat.
Andsheequallyhatedtoseethesocialbutterflysmileuponthehigh-bornnative
ofIndia,anglingforhislakhswiththebaitofafairwhiteskinuponwhichto
fastenastringofpricelesspearls,gatheringherfastidiousskirtsaboutheratthe
signofanyfeelingmorehumanthanthatwhichshewouldallowfroma


respectablebankmanager,recoilingdisdainfullyfromamanwhoseancestors
weremightyintheland,whenherswerejustbeginningtobreakthroughthe
crustofserfdom,asatoadwillcrackandthrowbackthecakedmudunderwhich
ithasblissfullyslept.
Asapreventativetosocialandracialmishapsshethoroughlyendorsedthe
theorythat"EastisEastandWestisWest,etc."Butinherheart,orratherinher
somewhatsearchingbrain,shehadoftenwonderediftherecouldbeno
exceptiontotheruling,ifhalfoftheEastandhalfofWestcouldnevercombine
tomakeaperfectwhole.
Allsmilesthedragomanranforward,salutingherwithhandstoforehead,
mouth,andbreast.
"Doyouknowwhothatmanis?"sheasked,indicatingwithascarcely
perceptiblemovementoftheheadtheArabwhohadnotmovedamusclesince
shehadturnedawayfromhimtolookathishomeland,thedesert.
"'Im!Mylady!"repliedthenative,eyesandwhiteteethflashingasheessayedin
hisbestAnglo-Frenchtopleasethebeautifulforeignerwhosograciouslyspoke
tohim."'Im?Oh,'im!isHahmedtheCamelKing.'Improvidethecamelsfor
Government'CamelsCorpse,'"pointingtotheCamelryCorps,whereperspiring
Tommiesandaseethingmassofbrownbeastswereliterallyraisingtheduston
theothersideoftherailroad."'Im,"hecontinued,"iszegreatman,fromfar
awayoverzeCanalfromzegreates'andbestpartofSouthArabia.Isrich,oh!
rich!Oh!soveryrich—richecommelediable,Madame.Ismasterofmany
villages,manypeoples,butis'owsay,mylady—estétrange—andfeared.'Is
wordiszelawand'isarmiszeironand'ecanalsoshootzeflyonzetopof
Cheops!"
Themanpaused,literallyfromwantofbreath.
"Heisevidentlyaveryfineman,"saidJill,itmustbeconfessedalittle
disappointedly,havingexpectedsomethingalittlelessordinaryinthewayof
history,"butIcan'tsayIseeanythingstrangeaboutitall!"
Thedragoman,slightlydowncastbythelackofenthusiasmonthepartofhis
audience,tookinahugequantityoftheabsolutelystiflingairandstartedafresh.
"Oh!mais,Madame,zestrangezingiszatwizall'isrich,all'iscamel,all'is


'ouse—ah!Iforgotzatis'isIsmailiah'ouse,"pointingalong,brownfingertoa
hugepinkedifice,standinglikeahugepinkbirthdaycakeundertheblazingsun
ontheedgeofthetown—"'e'asnowoman—nonotanone—notwife—notlady
—zereistalesofonewifelongagooverzere,"pointingvaguelyinthedirection
heimaginedSouthArabiamightbe,"butfeared,wesayandasknozing—no!ze
greatHahmedlivealone—notzere———"Oncemorepointingcontemptuously
tothepinkabode."Zatbutabusiness'ouse—zemostbeautifulplaceinone
oasis!ZeFlatOasis!AhMadame!commec'est'belle—Iwho'avebeenoncamel
businesscantell,ze'ouse,zeshade,zewater—butnolady,nochildren,noson,
noone—'egoandsleepandliveallbyselfalone—triste,Madame,because'eis
zegreat,zejust,butgoalwaysaloneinzenightto'isoasisbienaiméeand
———"
Andheretheupliftingofanangrygutturalvoicecausedhimtoturnandrun
hurriedlytowardsafigurevehementlysignallingwithahugefawn-colouredsunshadelinedwithgreen.
Andasheranthesoulofthedesert,bornofthesun,palms,ennui,flies,the
sand,andAllahknowswhatbesides,suddenlysatupinJill'seyesandlaughed,
andasshelaughedthewords"Goalwaysaloneinzenightto'isoasisbien
aimée"ranginthegirl'sears,asastrangeandstartlingideaflashedacrossher
mind.
Forandagainsttheidearangedherthoughts;upheldonemomentbythe
insistentclamouringofherwholesoulforfreedom;combatedthenextbythe
inheriteddeferencetoconventionplantedbylongdeadgenerationsinthemind
soilofalmosteveryBritishsubject.
Whyshouldshenotbreakawayandstrikeoutonherown,ifonlyforafew
hours?Butwouldshenotberunningintopositivephysicaldangerifshedidso?
Stillitwouldonlybeforafewhours—aswiftrideintothedesert—aglimpseof
adeserthome—abreakanyhowinthedeadly,soul-stiflingmonotonyofher
dailyround.Yes!butwhatdidsheknowofthemanoutsidetheeulogiesofthe
dragoman,whoforallsheknewmightbeleaguedwithhiminnefarious
schemes.
Andyet,noonecaredifshelivedordiedinsoulorbody.Marryshewouldnot
foryears,andyears,thoughofatruththatprospectwouldbecomemoreand
moreremoteasyouthvanishedandthewatersofherwealthremainedatlow


tide.Butthemostirresistibleargumentinfavourofthemadideawasthatsofar
shehadnothadonesinglerealadventure.
"Allah!"shewhispered,claspingherhandsinvoluntarily."Whereismypath?
Showmethewayout!"
Andevenassheunclaspedherhands,sheheardafainttinkleofcoinsinthe
well-wornlittlebaghangingfromherwrist.
"Allahhasheard!"shemurmuredtoherself,asshefishedforacoin.
"HeadsIspeak—tailsIgobacktoEngland,"shecontinued,placingthesilver
coinonherthumbnail,flippingitintotheair,andcatchingitonthebackofher
hand."Heads.Oh!"
Andgivingherselfnotimetothink,whilstthesoulinhereyesfirstfrownedand
thenlaughedinglee,sheturnedandcrossedthefewyardscoveredbythesand
whichforcenturiesblownhitherandhitherhadbeenwaitingtomakeacarpet
forherlovelyfeettotreadwhenAllahinhisgraciousnessshouldshowherthe
path,whichwouldleadhertothewayout.


CHAPTERV
Jillhadanentrancingspeakingvoice.Shespokeonalownote,andhaving
trainedthemusclesofthethroattorelaxortightenatwill,shewasabletothrow
allmannerofinflectionintothewords,andallshadesoftoneandmelodyinto
thechordsofthebeautifulmusicalinstrumentwhichissoterriblyneglectedthe
worldover.
Sothatwhenshespoke,herwordssoundedlikethechimingofdistantbellsin
theearsoftheman,andhisheartseemedlikelytobeengulfedinthegolden
streamofavoicethroughwhichcontinuouslyrippledagentlelaughter.
"Monsieurwillforgivemeforspeakinginthisabruptway,butthemomentsare
fewinwhichtomakemyrequest.Ihearthatinthedesertisabeautifuloasis,
andmanybeautifulArabianhorses.Ihaveneverseenanoasis,foryouseeI
knownothingofEgypt,butIoncehadanArabmare.Shewaswonderfuland
white.PerhapsMonsieurhassomeofherbrothersorsisters?AndjustforonceI
shouldliketoseethedesertstarsatnight,andthedesertsunatdawn.Could
Monsieurtakemetoseethesethingsif——"Andthenthegoldenvoicestopped
short,andthegirlinvoluntarilytookonestepbackward.
ThosewhoknowtheraceknowthattheArabhasatremendouscontroloverhis
emotions.Hecanloveandkillinonemoment,butuntilthewomanisliterally
sweptoffherfeet,orthemanorwomanisdead,inaheap,neitherbyvoiceor
gesturewillhebetraythepassionconsuminghim.
Thevoice,thegreatestbetrayerofmankind,isespeciallyundercontrolofthese
exceedinglystrongmen.Nomatterwhatparoxysmofrage,revenge,ordesire
maybeshakingthemantotheinnermostdepthofhisbeing,hisvoiceflowson
justasmusically,justassoftly.
ButJill,beingobservant,hadnoticedthatalthoughthehandslayfoldedonthe
crossedarms,thenailsweredugintothepalms,andraisinghereyestothe


sombrefaceforexplanation,hadencounteredtwoeyesblazingwithamighty
anger.
TherearemanywaysinwhichtoincitetheArabtowrath,butbelieveme,the
waywhichwillmostsurelyleadtosuddenmurder,ortolongbloodyfeuddrawn
outovermanyyears,passingfromgenerationtogeneration,isthewayof
ridicule.
Lethimthinkthatyouarelaughingathim,andIshouldadviseyoutotakethe
nearestcamel,train,orboat,oranyothermeansoflocomotiontohand,andfly
thecountry.
Thecountrymindyou,forhideyoueversocraftily,hewillfindyou,even
thoughyourhairbewhite,andyourfigurebentwiththepassageofyears,and
then,onlythenwillhebeappeased,whentherealorimaginedjestathis
expensehasbeenlostinthedeepcolourofyourrichredblood.
SothatwhentheArabspokealightofunderstandingdawneduponJill,for,
touchinghisforehead,mouth,andaspotonhisraimentjustabovehisheartwith
hisrighthand,andmurmuringthecustomarysalutation,"Maypeacebeupon
you,"hepausedforamoment,andthencontinued,"ButitpleasesMadameto
jestwithme.Sheawaitsthetraintotakehertotheboat,howthereforecouldshe
comeintothedesertto-night?"
ButJillwasabsolutelyunafraid!Havingknownnomaster,shecarednotonesou
foranysonofman,oranyuntowardpositionshemightfindherselfin,so
openingwideherverybeautifuleyesshesimplysmiledbackintotheangryones
whichlookeddownuponherfromsomeconsiderableheight,and,withalittle
shrugofhershoulders,ahabitacquiredfromoneofasuccessionofforeign
governesses,shemadereplyinherturn,andinwordswhichthoughabsolutely
common-placeservedasthegoldenkeywithwhichtounlockthebejewelled,
goldencasketofthisman'slove.
InanyWesterncountrythesituationwouldhavebeenabsurd!AnEnglishgirl,
minussceneryandeveryaccessoryduetoabookheroine,capableinfivebrief
minutesofsmitingtheheartofoneofEgypt'smostrenownedmen!
Ridiculous!
Perhapsinthelandsoffogsandfires,greyskiesandeastwinds,butnotin


Egypt,wherethesun,sky,winds,andmemoriesserverathertoforcethegrowth
ofthelove-plantandhastenthebuddingofthepassion-flower.
Studiouslybuttoningupthelastbuttonwhichshealwaysleftundoneonherlast
pairofsuedegloves,smoothasanewlybornwhippetpuppy,andasyet
unruffledfromthecleaner'smanipulations,shespokewitharippleoflaughter
whichmadeitimpossibletodecideifshewasspeakingseriouslyornot.
"Madamepermitsherselftodojustasshepleases.Ifbysomeunforeseen
circumstancessheweretomissthetrain,wouldshebetakentoseetheoasis,
andthehorses,andthestars?"
Andletitbeunderstoodthat,inherutterignoranceofdeserts,sheimaginedthe
oasiscouldbereachedafterajourneyofafewhours.
Foronemomenttherewasdeadsilencebetweenthesetwo,thestringsofwhose
livesFatewasinextricablymixinginherfingers,palsiedbyage,andfrettedby
theconstanttuggingandstrainingofthoseotherthreadswhich,inmomentsof
senileangerorchildishness,shegetsintosuchhopelesstangles.
Thenastheshriekofanenginewhistleshrilledfaintlyinthedistancetheman
spoke,hisvoicesinkingtothatdeepnotewhichnoothernationattains,
resemblinginnowaytheRussianbass,andwhichintheArabuponrare
occasionsalonebetrayssomeemotionalupheaval.
"Listen,womanoftheWest,whoevenatthismomentstandsinmyshadow,
betweenthatfaintenginewhistleandthegrindingofthebrakesasthetrain
comestoastandstill,youmustmakeyourchoice.AfewmomentsagoIsawyou
tossasilvercoinanddecidequicklythatwhichhadbeendecidedalreadyforyou
sincethebeginningofalltime.
"Oncemoreyoushallcastyourdie.ThetableisthesandofEgypt,thedice-cup
isyourhand,thediceareyourlifeandmylife,thestakesourhappiness.Decide
againandquicklyforIheartherumblingofwheels.Makeknownyourchoice,
foralthoughwetravellersthroughthedesertoflifeliedowntosleep,andrise
againtolive,tofight,tohate,andabovealltolove,inobediencetothewill
whichcountethandheapeththeparticlesofsanduponthisstation,yetarewe
allowed,tovoiceourdesires,beingmouth-piecesofFate.Nay!waitone
momentuntilImakecleartheway,sothatyoumaynotputdownyourbeautiful
feetblindlyuponatracklesswasteofdoubtandmistrust.Ifyoucomewithme


to-night,youcomealone.Ihavenowomaninmydeserthome,exceptingone
oldhunchbackslave,awitheredboughbutfaithful.Nowomanhassetfoot
withinthebeltofpalmssurroundingmyhouse,andwithoutthesandstretches!
Mileuponmileofpathlesssand!
"Youwillcomeintothedesertalonewithme,andthesandwillcloseinupon
youandkeepyouinthedesertalone—withme!
"Ifyoucome,beatthegateofyonderpinkhouseatnineto-night;ifyouarenot
thereIshallknowthatyourhearthasfailed."
ButthesoulofthedesertglintedforonemomentintheEnglishgirl'seyes.
"Theremaybenowomanthere,buttherewillbeaman—amanindeed!"she
whispered,asthoughcommuningwithherself.
Andtheeyessosoftandbluelookedup,andthendown,downintothesoulof
HahmedtheArab,sodeeplyindeedthatashiverranfromherbraintoher
finger-ends,causinghertodrawherselftogethersharplyandtoturnandwalk
away.
******
Soitcameaboutasitwaswrittenthatshehaddecidedwhenthebrakesgrinded,
andthatafterretrievingheremployerforthelasttime,andplacingherinadusty
cornerofthestiflingcarriage,sheslippedawayontheexcuseoffindingher
dressing-case,whichshedid,takingitwithherintoacornerofthedeserted
waiting-roomjustastheengineannounceditsimmediatedeparture.
Withoutaqualmshewatched"hercrowd"jostleandpushtheirwayintothe
smallcarriages,andthetrain,moveout,leavingheralone—aloneinthedesert
town,alonewiththedwellerofthatdesert.
Awaveofexultationrushedthroughherasshethoughtofthishergreat
adventure,ofthisherfreedomforatleastashortwhile,andoftheunknown
quantityshewasmixingintoherportionofdailybreadwhich,uptothis
moment,hadconsistedoftheplainest,wholesomest,mostuninterestingbunloaf,notevenresemblingthatextremelydullandunappetisingcakenamed,I
believe,Swissroll,whichhidesitsstalenessundertheglasscaseofLife'sshop
window,lyingfly-blownontheplateandheavilyandunimaginativelyonthe


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