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Barbary sheep

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BarbarySheep
RobertHichens
AUTHOROF
"THECALLOFTHEBLOOD"
"THEGARDENOFALLAH"
ETC.ETC.
NEWYORKANDLONDON
HARPERBROTHERSPUBLISHERS
MCMVII
Allrightsreserved.PublishedAugust,1907.
BARBARYSHEEP


I
SIRCLAUDEWYVERNEwasasimpleandratherheavyyoungEnglishman,
whohadmarriedaveryfrivolouswife,andwhoadoredher.Adorationleadsto
abnegation,andSirClaude,assoonashewasamarriedman,begantogiveway
toLadyWyverne.Shewasaveryprettyandchangeableblonde.Any
permanenceseemedtoherdull;andthistraitsecretlyagitatedherhusband,who
desiredtobepermanentinherlifeandnottobethoughtdullbyher.Inorderto
achievethisresult,hedecidedtopresenthimselfasoftenaspossibletoLady
Wyverneintheseductiveguiseofchange-giver.Hewasperpetuallyoccupiedin
devisingnoveltiestokeepupherbutterflyspiritsandinanticipatingherevery
whim.
Onespring,justasSirClaudethoughttheyweregoingatlasttosettledownina
prettycountryplacetheyhadinLeicestershire,LadyWyverneexpresseda
suddenwishto"runover"toAlgiers.
"CarolineBarchesterandherbearhavegonethere,Crumpet,"shesaid."Let's
go,too.I'llgetanintroductiontotheex-QueenofMadagascarlandthePrinceof
Annamthey'reinexilethere,youknowandwe'llhavesomefunandsee


somethingnew.I'mtiredofordinarypeople.Let'sstartonTuesday.We'llstayin
Parisenroute."
OfcourseSirClaudeassented.TheystartedforAlgiersontheTuesday,andthey
stayedinParisenroute.
WhiletheywereinParistheywent,againstSirClaude'swill,tovisitafamous
astrologercalledDr.MelieEtoile,aboutwhomeverybodyLadyWyverne's
everybodyhappenedtoberavingatthatmoment.LadyWyvernewentintothis
worthy'spresencefirst,leavingherhusbandlookingunusuallyEnglishevenfor
himseatedinthewaiting-room,asmallchamberallcanechairs,artificial
flowers,andsignsofthezodiac,heatedbysteam,andcarefullyshrouded,atthe
tinywindows,bybeadblinds.
AfterperhapshalfanhourLadyWyvernecameoutinastateofviolent
excitement.


"He'sextraordinary!"sheexclaimed."He'sagenius!Alittlebeardedthinglikea
mouse,dogoin,Crumpet!"
ButSirClaudeprotested.Hehadonlycometobringhiswife.Hehimselfwasan
absolutescepticinmattersoccult,andindeedthoughtalmosteverythingatall
outoftheway"damnedsilly."Theideaofsubmittinghimselftoanastrologer
called"Melie"rousedallhisBritishantagonism.ButLadyWyvernewasfirm.
Indeed,hercapricesgenerallyhadagooddealofcast-ironinthem.Inratherless
thanthreeminutes,therefore,SirClaudewassittingatatinytableoppositetoa
smalloldmanwithawhitebeardandpinkeyes,andansweringquestionsabout
thehourofnightwhenhewasborn,thedateoftheyear,hisillnesses,and
variousothersmallmatterstillthenregardedbyhimasstrictlyprivate.
Eventuallyhecameout,holdingafoldedpaperinhishand,andlookingagood
deallikeawell-bredpoker.
"Sillyrot!"hemuttered,asheenteredtheouterroomwherehiswifewas
awaitinghimamongthesignsofthezodiacandthewaxenpeonies.

"What'ssillyrot?"criedLadyWyverne.
"Whatthatchapsays."
"Whatdoeshesay?"
"Oh,alotofrot.Is'posehethoughtIcouldn'tunderstandhim,orhewantedan
extraguinea.Anyhowhe'swrittenitalldownhere."
Heheldoutthepaper,whichhiswifeeagerlyseized.Afterglancingoverthered
andpurplewritingonit,sheexclaimed:
"Mars!That'sthismonth.ThisisMarchthefirst."
"Iknow.Rot,isn'tit?"
"Mars,"continuedLadyWyverne,readingaloud,"periodedeluttes,de
contestations,d'anxiete,etmemedepeinesdecceur.Eviterdepartirenvoyage
lanuit.Dangerd'une--"
Shestopped.Herchildish,ovalfacewasunusuallygrave.


"Rot,isn'tit?"saidSirClaude,gazingathiswifewithanxietyinhiseyes.


II
THEex-QueenofMadagascarwasverygraciousinhervillaonthehillabove
Algiers.ThePrinceofAnnamshowedSirClaudehishorses,atwhichSir
Claudescarcelylooked,ashewasthoroughlypreoccupiedbythelittlebagin
whichhisagreeablehostconfinedhisluxuriantcropofblackhair.Caroline
Barchesterandherbear,whowasalsoherhusband,hadplentyofgossiptotell
theWyvernesintheprettygardenoftheH6telSt.GeorgesatMustapha.Yetby
March10thLadyWyvernehadhadenoughAlgiers.
"Let'sgeton,Crumpet,"shesaidtoherhusband."We'veseentheQueenandthe
MoorishBathatleastyou'veseenitandtheGovernor'sPalaceandCapMatifou
andalltherestofit.Solet'sgetontowardsthedesert."
SirClaudelookedunusuallygrimandmulish.

"Ididn'tknowweweregoingtothedesert,"hesaid.
"Why,ofcourse.Whatdidwecomefor?"
"ToseeAlgiers,Ithought."
"Nonsense!AlgiersisasFrenchastheRuedelaPaix.Iwanttoknowallabout
camelsandsand-dunesandOuledwhatarethey?GettwoberthsinthesleepingcarforEl-Akbara;there'sadear.It'satthegateofthedesert,youknow.We'll
staythenightandthentrotontoBeni-Mora."
Then,ashestilllookedmulish,sheadded,mischievously:
"OrIshallthinkyou'resillyenoughtobelieveinMelieEtoile'sprophecy."
"Rot!"saidSirClaude."Afellowlikeawhite---"
"Verywell,then,getthetickets!"
HewentatoncetoCook'sandgotthetickets,buthelookedverygrave,almost
distressed,ashereturnedtothehotel.Andallthateveninghescarcelytookhis
eyesfromhiswife'spretty,ratherdolllike,face.


"Ibelieveyoudobelieve!"shesaidtohim,astheyweregoinguptobed.
"'Dangerd'unegrandeperte'thatwaswhathewrote'laplusgrandeperte
possible.'Whatwouldbethegreatestlosspossibletoyou?"
"Yououghttoknow,"hereplied,almostharshly.
Andhecaughtherlittlehandandwrungit.
"Oh,Crumpet,myrings!"shecried.
Butsheleftherhandinhis,andadded,onthelanding:
"Asifyoucouldlosemeouthere!Crumpet,you'remorefoolishthanIam,and
I'monemassofsuperstition,evenaboutgoingunderladders."
"Thendoyoubelievethatpink-eyedastrologerchap?"
"Ofcoursenot.Bed,bed,beautifulbed!"
IntheeveningofthenextdaytheyarrivedatEl-Akbara,butnotwithoutalittle
adventureontheway.NearastationcalledKreirthetrainranofftheline,and
LadyWyverne,thoughnothurt,wasagooddealshakenandverymuch
frightened.When,afteralongdelay,theystartedagain,bothsheandher

husbandsatoppositetoeachotherinamoodysilence.SirClaudeseemed
speciallyoppressed,andsmokedcigaraftercigarwithalmostfeverishrapidity.
Onlywhentheyhadleftthetrainandwerebeingdriventothelittleinn,where
theyweretospendthenight,didtheybothbrightenandbegintoreturntotheir
normalspirits.
"Whatanextraordinarylittleplace,Crumpet1"saidLadyWyverne,peering
throughherveilatthetoweringrockswhichformedaterrificwall,dividingthe
desertfromtheTell."Butwhere'stheSahara?"
"Idunno,Kitty,"returnedSirClaude."Wonderifthere'sanyshootin'inthose
mountains."
"Why,it'sgettingquitecold!"criedLadyWyverne,asthecarriagerattledintoa
narrowgorgeoftherocksfullofshadowsandofthesoundofrushingwaters.
"OnewouldneversupposethatthedesertHere'sthehotel!"


Thecarriagehadstoppedbeforeasolitaryhousewhichstoodintheheartofthe
gorgeontheedgeofaturmoilofabsinthe-coloredwater.
Stupendousbattlementsofrockrearedthemselvesuproundaboutittowardsthe
clearbluesky.InfrontofitgrewalineofJudas-treesalongthewhiteroad,
whichisthecaravanroutefromtheTelltotheSahara.Itwassmall,low,but
cleanandinviting-looking,withawideverandaandFrenchwindowswithgreen
shutters.
"Teaontheveranda!"criedLadyWyverne."Tea--andthenwhere'sthedesert?"
Thelandlady,aplumpandpleasantFrenchwomanofmiddle-ageandmotherly
appearance,explainedthatitlayimmediatelybeyondthewallofrock.Five
minutes'walkthroughthegorgeand"Madame"wouldbethere.LadyWyverne
wasallexcitement.Shequiteforgothershakilingandfright,andassoonasshe
Ifhadswallowedacupofteashemadeherhusbandaccompanyherdownthe
roadtowardsthenaturalportalwhichtheArabscall"TheGateoftheSahara."
Hehadbeenbelow,conferringwithatallArabguide,whonowwalkedbeside

themneedlesslytoshowtheway,andhesaidtohiswife,withconsiderable
animation:
"Isay,Kitty,whatd'youthinkThischapsaysthere'ssplendidsporthere,any
amountofBarbarysheepupinthoserocks,andherdsofgazelleintheplainjust
beyond.D'youthinkyou'dmindspendin'acoupleo'nightshereinsteadofone?
JLcouldgetupto-morrowatthreeo'clockandbeofftogetashotatsomethin'.
Whatd'youthink?"
Helookedatheranxiously.
"I'lltellyouinaminute,Crumpet,whenI've--Oh!"
Sheutteredalittlecryandstoodstill,clutchingherhusband'sarm.Theyhad
comeoutintothedesertandwerefacingthesunset.Abruptlytheworldhad
changed.Agloryofcolordazzledtheireyes.Theriver,nowflowingquietly,
woundawayintothebosomofanoasisofmagnificentpalm-treesthatlayina
measurelessexpanseofpale-yellowearthcoveredwithscatteredcrystals.Tothe
leftstretchedadistantmountainrange,dimpurplebeneaththeroseofthesunset.
AndfromthreeArabvillagesofbrownhousesscatteredjamongthepalmscame
thecriesofchildren,thebarkingofdogs,andthefaintsoundsofAfricandrums
andhautboys.


UnderagreatrockbytheriversidesatanArabboypipingatunethatwaslike
capricepersonifiedinmusic.
"Oh,Crumpet!"saidLadyWyverne,afteralittlepauseofcontemplation,"how
strangeitisandhowhow"
Shecaughtherbreath.Thereweretearsinhereyes.
"Camels!Camels!"shecried."Look,Crumpet!"
Acaravanwaswindingoutofthegorge,atrainofladencamels,andbarefooted,
dark-facedmeninfluttering,raggedgarments.
"Doosidpicturesque,"assentedSirClaude."Togetashotatthesheepyouhave
to

"Yes,yes,Iknow."
"Well,buthowcanyou--"
"ItellyouIknowIknow.We'llstaytwonights.Gooffto-morrowatthreeand
killwhateveryoulike.Onlyletmestayandexplorethosevillagesandwander
amongthosepalms."
"Youcan'tgoalone."
"I'lltakeaguide."
"I'llfindoutatthehotelifthere's'onethat'sallright,"mutteredSirClaude."This
fellowalwaysgoes!withthesportsmen.Isay,Kitty,I'mfeelin'awfulhungry."
"Youmundanething!"saidLadyWyverne,shrugginghershoulders.
Butsheturnedbackandtheymadetheirwaytotheinn,whichwasnow
shroudedinthedeepshadowsoftherapidlyapproachingnight.
Atdinnertheonlyotherpersonintheroomwasaverysmartandhandsome
youngArab,who,thewaitertoldthem,wasanofficerintheSpahis,andwas
stationedatAlgiers,butwhowasnowonleaveandgoingtothehomeofhis
father,animportantCaidintheZibansdistrict.LadyWyvernelookedatthe


guestwithinterest.Heworeasnowyturbanandaredjacket,andbetweenthe
whiteandredhismagnificentblackeyessparkledimpudently,andhisteeth
gleamedashesmiledatthewaiter,towhomheaddressedafewwordsin
excellentFrench.Hisfacewasextraordinarilyexpressive,brilliant,butcrueland
startlinglyintelligent.
AllthroughdinnerSirClaudewastalkingaboutBarbarysheep,anddirectly
dinnerwasoverhesaid:
"Isay,Kitty,s'poseweturnin."
"Turnin!"saidLadyWyverne."Why,it'sonlyeighto'clock!"
"Iknow,butyou'reawfullydoneup,withthataccidentandall,and--"
"Youmeanthatyou'resleepyandthatyou'vegottobeupatthreetokillsome
wretchedsheep.Gotobed,Crumpet;butI'mgoingtostayoutontheveranda

andlookatthemoon."
SirClaudecastadrowsyglancetowardstheyoungSpahi,whohadJustpicked
upawalnutoutofafruitdishandwasholdingitdelicatelyinhisslim,almost
womanishfingers.TheSpahilookeddemurelydown.
"Well,Kitty,IthinkIwillturnJn.Yousee,ifIdon'tgetenoughsleep,there'sno
knowin'to-morrowwhether
"You'llhitthewretchedsheeporpotyourguide.Iknow.Trotalong."
SirClaudeturnedtotrot.Asharplittlesoundrangthroughtheroom.Helooked
round.TheSpahihadcrackedthenutwithhisfingers,andwassmilinggentlyas
hetenderlyextractedthekernel.
"IdunnothatIamreadyforbed,"beganSirClaude."P'r'apsI'llhaveasmoke
firston
"No,no;thebolstercallsyou.Iknowbythelobsterlookinyourdearoldeyes.
Comealong,Crumpet!"
Shevanishedfromtheroomfollowledbyherhusband.


TheSpahilookedafterthem,gotsup,litacigarette,andstrolledoutintothe
littlepavedenclosureabovewhichtheverandaprojected.Heleanedhisshoulder
againstapillarandstoodtheremotionless,staringtowardstheJudas-treesand
thewhiteroadthatwoundawayamongtheshadowsofthegorgetowardsthe
desert.


III
SIRCLAUDEwenttobed,ofcourse.Healwaysdidwhathiswifetoldhimto
do.LadyWyvernetuckedhimup,andthen,followedbythefamiliarsoundof
hisfirstsnore,wentoutontotheverandabeneathwhichtheyoungSpahiwas
standing.Heheardtherustleofhergownabovehiminthestillnight,and
smiled.Brilliantstarssparkledinthesky,andthethreadofroadthatwound

throughthegorgetotheSaharawaslitupbyaround,whitemoon.Intheiihotel
thelandlady,herfamily,andItheservantsweresuppingcheerfully.Nobodywas
about.AfteraminutetheSpahimovedawayfromthepillaragainstwhichhe
hadbeenleaning,tothewoodenrailingbeneaththeJudas-trees,whichdivided
thesmall,pavedcourt-yardoftheinnfromtheroad.Heturnedandstoodwith
hisbackagainstit,facingtheveranda,buthedidnotlookup.Standingthere
motionless,heap-gpearedtobewrappedinaprofoundreverie.LadyWyverne
watchedhimcuriously.Hislarge,whiteturbanlookedghostlyinthemoonlight,
shethought.Whydidhestandtheremotionless?Ofwhatcouldhebethinking?
Thisplace,sounlikeanyplaceshehadeverbeforeseen,puzzledher.This
motionlessmanpuzzledher,too.Thefrivolityofherspiritwasledcaptiveby
thisAfricansolitudeinthenight,ontheedgeofagreatersolitude,thevastand
unknowndesertinwhichthismanwhostoodlikeastatuebeneathhadbeenborn
andbred,towhichhewasnowreturning.Asensationalmostofawecreptover
her,andshebegantowonder.Whenawomanbeginstowonderthereisnolimit
tohermentaljourneyings.LadyWyvernehadtravelledveryfarwhenastrange
soundstartledherandarrestedherattention.
Itwasavoicesinging,orrathermurmuring,anuncouthtune,asoft,whining,
almostbabyishvoice.Fromwhomdiditcome?
ShecouldseenooneexcepttheyoungSpahi,anditdidnotoccurtoheratfirst
thatthevoicecouldproceedfromaman'smouth.Shelistened,leaningoverthe
balustrade.Thevoicewentonsinginguntilitseemedtoherasifithadbecome
onewiththenight,almostasifitwerethevoiceofthenightinthisrocky
solitudeattheedgeofthesands.Thetunewasugly,shethought,butitinterested
her.Hadshespokenofit,shewouldprobablyhavesaidthatitwas"soweird."
Shehadneverbeforeheardanythingatallresemblingit.Bydegreesthesinging
begantoaffectheralmostpainfully,toplayuponhernerves,tomakeherrestless


anduneasy.Shetookherarmsfromtherailoftheveranda.Whowasthesinger?

Shetriedtolocatethesound,andpresentlyitseemedtoherthatitcamefromthe
spotwheretheSpahiwasstanding.Wasitreallyhewhowassinging?Wasitaa
serenade?
Shesmiled.Herswiftvanitywasawake.WhenshemovedtheSpahimovedtoo.
Hewalkedsoftlyacrossthelittlecourt,liftedhisheadtowardstheverandaand
showedLadyWyvernehisdarkfacewiththelipsmoving.Hewasthesinger,
andnow,almostinsolently,hesentthesongtoher.
Eversinceshehad"comeout"LadyWyvernehadbeenaccustomedto
admiration,eventoworshipsuchitworshipasmodernsmartmenhaveattheir
commandtogivetoapretty?woman.Butthisstrange,whiningserenadefrom
anAfricanwasanewexperience.Theboldnessofthedarkfaceturnedupward
toherinthemoonlight,andthebabyishsoundofthevoicethatissuedfromits
lips,formedacombinationthatstirredherneurotictemperamenteverimpatient
inthesearchafternovelty.Almosteresherealizedwhatshewasdoing,shehad
smiledattheSpahi.Hestoppedsingingandsmiledupather.Thenhespoke,as
iftospeakwithherwerethemostnaturalthingintheworld.
"Hasmadameeverseenthedesertunderthemoon?"
LadyWyvernestartedandhalfdrewback.Thisreallywascarryingthingsvery
far.
"Madameiscomingdown?"saidtheSpahi,misinterpretingthemovementwith
adelightful,boyishinsolence.
Beforesheknewthatshewasspeaking,LadyWyvernehadsaid,inFrench:
"Certainlynot."
"Itisapity.Fiveminutesandmadamecouldseethedesertinthemoonlight.
Thereisnothingtofear."
Heputhishanddownforaninstant,thenliftedit,andLadyWyvernesawthe
moonlightglitteringonthepolishedsteelofarevolver.Thesparklefascinated
hereyesmorethanthesparkleofthestars.
"I'mnotafraid,"shesaid.



Thistimeshespokedeliberately.Theimp,caprice,bywhichshewasalways
governed,whisperedtoher:
"Thisisanewbitoffun!Don'tbesuchafoolastoavoidit."
"Butmadamedoesnotcaretoseethedesert?"
AtthismomenthenoticedthatLadyWyverne'sblueeyeshadtravelledaway
fromhisfaceandweregazingatsomethingbehindhim.Heturned,andsawa
trainofcamelsandnomadsstealingbytheinnontheirwaytothedesert.
Noiselesslytheypaddedonthenarrowthreadofroad.Thenomadsweremuffled
inraggedhoodsandflutteringcloaks,andcarriedclubs.Withtheirbirdlikeeyes
staringbeforethem,theypassedlikephantomsintotheshadowsofthegorge.
TheirappearanceanddisappearancewokeupinLadyWyverneavaguesenseof
romanceandmystery,alongingtofollowthesestrangemenandtheirbeastsinto
thesilverworldwhichlaybeyondtheshadows.Sheslippedacrosstheveranda
andpeepedintoSirClaude'sroom.Hewassnoringbravely.
"DreamingofBarbarysheep!"murmuredLadyWyverne."IfonlyCrumpet
werealittlebitmoreh'm!"
Shesighed,caughtupacloak,andwentsoftlydown-stairs.
TheSpahimetherinthecourtyard.Theimpudenceofhisdemeanorhad
vanished,andhebowedwithaceremoniousgravitywhichsurprisedLady
Wyverne,whowasunaccustomedtotherapidandcompletechangesofmanner
socommonamongOrientals.
"Willnotmonsieurcome,too?"heasked,simply.
"Monsieur!"
LadyWyvernelookedintohisgreateyeswithastaringamazement.
"Monsieurisasleep,"sheadded,recoveringherself.
"Soearly!"
Therewastheleasthintofsarcasminhisvoice.



"HeisgoingafterBarbarysheepto-morrowmorningatthreeo'clock,"saidLady
Wyverne,rathersharply.
TheSpahilookedsteadilyintoherpretty,blondface.
"Barbarysheep!"herepeated."Barbarysheep!"
Therewasanoteofpityinhisvoice.
"MayIputmadame'scloakroundher?"headded,afterapause.
"II'mnotgoingout,"saidLadyWyverne.
"Butthecloak?"hesaid,gravely.
Andhetookitfromherhandsand,swiftlyandgracefully,withanextraordinary
deftness,putitroundher.
"Come,madame!"
"But"
Heopenedthegate.
"Itisonlyfiveminutes.Inaquarterofanhourwearehereandmadamehas
seen--ah,athingmorewonderfulthanshehaseverseeninEngland."
Heheldthegateopen.LadyWyvernesteppedoutintotheroad.
Nextmorningatthreeo'clock,whenthestarswerestillshining,LadyWyverne
heardherhusbandmovingaboutheavilyinhisroom.Presentlyhecametoher
door,openeditwithelaboratecaution,andpassedin,holdingacandleinhis
hand.Agunwasslungoverhisshoulder.Shelaystill,withhereyesshut,and
afteramomentheshutthedoorandsheheardhimtrampdownthestairs.His
footstepsdiedaway.Thensheheardoutsideafaintsoundofvoices,theclatterof
mules.Hewasgone.Shesighed.Shewasaskingherselfwhyshehadfeigned
sleep.Butshedidnotanswerherownquestion.
"Ihopehe'llhaveluck,"shethought."Idohopehe'llkillsomething."
Andthenshereallyslept.


Intheafternoonatfiveo'clockSirClauderodeuptotheinndoorinwildspirits.
Behindhim,slungacrossamule,wasadeadBarbarysheep.

"Grandsport!"heexclaimed,lookingupathiswife,whowasontheveranda
sittingonastrawchair."Iwaitedforhourstogetashot,andIsay,Kit,you
haven'tbeenborin'yourselftodeath?"
"No,Crumpet."
"Jollylittleplace,isn'tit?Ishouldn'tmindspendin'aweekhere."
"Verywell,"sheanswered.
"Youdon'tmind?"heexclaimed.
"I'lldojustasyoulike."
"Youareabrick,Kitty!Yousee,there'sgazelleintheplain,too,and--"
"Iknow,Iknow."
Hepoundedupthestairstokissher.
"PooroldCrumpet!"shethought.
Andshefeltasifshewerebeingkissedbyasmallschool-boy.
Thateveningatdinnertheywerealone.
"TheSpahichap'sgone?"askedSirClaude,withanindifferentandsleepy
glanceround.
"Idon'tthinkso.Isawhimaboutto-day.Perhapshe'sgotfriendsinthevillage
andiseatingacous-couswiththem."
"Awhat?"
"Acous-cousastewrice,orsomething,andmuttonandspices."
"Jove,Kitty,youareupinallthisArabrot!Howthedeucedoyoupickupsuch
alotofinformationaboutit?"


"ThereisabookcalledMwray,sheanswered,dryly."Doyougotobedateight
to-night?"
"Well,I'mprettywelldoneup.Yousee,startin'offatthreeagaintomorrow.You
weresleepin'likeatoplastnightwhenIlookedin."
"Ah,"shesaid."NowIknowhowtopssleep."
"Whatd'youmean?"

"Nothing.Gotobed,oldboy."
Withoutmuchpersuasionheobeyedthecommand.Barbarysheephadmadehim
verytired.Hecouldalmosthavesleptstandinglikeahorsethatnight.


IV
"WASthecous-cousgood?"askedLadyWyverne,halfanhourlater.
SheandtheSpahiwerewalkingtogetherslowlydownthemoonlitroadbetween
thetoweringrocksofthegorge,whosefantasticsilhouettes,blackbeneaththe
deep-purpleskyofnight,lookedlikethesilhouettesoftherocksinoneofDore's
picturesoftheInferno.Thenoiseoftherushingwatersoftheriverwasintheir
earsandalmostdrownedthemurmuroftheirvoicesastheyspoketoeachother.
"Icouldnoteat,madame."
"Whynot?"
"Iwasthinkingofyourdepartureto-morrow,andofminefarintotheZibans,to
thehouseofmyfather."
"Absurd!"shesaid,withalittleshrugofhershoulders."Ihadanexcellent
appetite."
Hewassilent.To-nightheworeoverhisshouldersagreatredcloak,which
swunggentlytoandfroashewalkedonwiththemagnificentdignityandpride
whichisthebirthrightoftheArabrace.Sheglancedathimsideways,witha
birdliketurnIofherlittlehead.
"Besides,"sheadded,"I'mnotIgoingawayto-morrow."
Hiseyesflashedonherlikefire.
"Madame?"
"No,westaysomedaysmore.Barbarysheep,youknow!"Andshelaughed,but
rathermirthlessly.
"WillyouhavetoridefromBeni-Mora?"sheadded."Therailwayendsthere,
doesn'tit?
"Yes,madame.FromthereIshallride."



"Howmanydays?"
"Threedays."
"Andalwaysinthedesert?"
"Alwaysinthedesert."
"Andthenyouwillreachyourhome.Howstrange!"
ShewasthinkingofChesterStreet,BelgraveSquare,inwhichshehadfirstseen
thelight.Whatagulfwasfixedbetweenherandthismanwithwhomshewas
nowadventurouslywalkingthroughthissavagesolitude!Andyethiscloak,asit
swung,touchedtheskirtofhergown,andshecouldseethefiresparklinginhis
eyesashebenthisheaddownwhenshespoketohim.Andsheshehada
capriciousdesiretofindsomebridgeacrossthisgulf,toventureuponit,tobring
ChesterStreettotheZibans.Shewasnotstupid,and,beingawoman,shewas
intuitive,andsoitneveroccurredtoherevenforamomentthattheZibanscould
everbebroughttoChesterStreet.
Thesoundoftheriversanktoasofternoteasitsbedwidenedout,leavingspace
forthereleasedwaterstoflowquietlytowardsthepalmtreesofthefirstoasis.
Throughthegreatnaturalapertureinthewallofrockavaguevisionof
glimmeringspacesshoweditself,likeamirageofeternitywashedwithsilver.
LadyWyvernestoodstill.
"Nofarther,"shesaid."Thiswaswherewestoppedlastnight."
"Onestepfartherto-night,madame!"saidtheSpahi."Onelittlestep."
"No,no."
Hepointedwithhishandoutstretchedandtheredfoldsofhiscloakflowing
downfromhisarm.
"Butitcallsus."
"What?"
"Thedesert,madame.Listen!"



LadyWyvernelookedathim.Hehadspokenwithsomuchauthoritythatshedid
notsmileathisremarkorthinkitridiculous.Sheevenlistened,likeonein
expectationofsomedistantsound,somevoicefromthefarawaythatlaybeyond
thespaceshereyescouldsee.Butinthedeepsilenceofthenightsheheardonly
themurmuroftheriverflowingintothemovingshadowsofthepalms.
"There'snovoice,"shesaid,atlast.
"Thereisavoiceforme,"heanswered."ButIamasonofthedesert."
"Doyouloveit?"
"Ibelongtoit.Ithasnosecretsfromme.Ihavelearnedallitslessons."
"CouldIlearnthem?"
Shespokewithasortofmodestyveryunusualinher.
"Onlywithonewhobelongstothedesert."
"ThenIshallneverlearnthem,"shesaid,withasortofhalf-childishregret.
"Whynot?"
"Whynot?Whatanabsurdquestion!"
"Onecanlearnwhatonechoosestolearn.I"hespokeproudly"Ihavelearnedto
beaFrenchofficer."
"Ireallydon'tfeelequaltolearningtobeanArabwoman,"sherejoined,rather
petulantly."Besides,youknowaswellasIdothatmencandoathousandthings
womencan'tdo."
"Evenawomancangoastepfarther,"hesaid.
"Ohwellthat'snotveryimportant.Idon'tmind."
Andshewalkedon.
Hesmiledashefollowedher.


Whentheycameoutofthegorgetheywereinthefullfloodofthemoonlight.
Thechangefromtheconfinedspaceofthegorgetothisimmensityofthedesert
wasstartling,andasuddensenseoflonelinessanddangerrusheduponLady

Wyverne.Abruptlysherealizedthatthiscapriceofhers,besidesbeingextremely
unconventional,mightbesomethingmore.Shethoughtof"Crumpet"snoring
peacefullyinthehotel,andforthefirsttimewishedthatshehadnotlefthisside.
TheSpahi,watchingherfaceinthebrightmoonlight,readwiththeswift
certaintyoftheArab,alwayshorriblyacuteinsummingupthecharacterand
flyingthoughtsoftheEuropean,allthatwaspassinginhermindandansweredit
inasentence.
"Shewholovesthestrangemust'notfeartofaceit,"hesaid,quietly,
LadyWyvernereddened.Shewasmadehalfangrybyhisintelligenceandhis
assurance.Nevertheless,theyfascinatedher.Shewasaccustomedtounderstand
menmuchmorethoroughlythantheyunderstoodher.Thismanputherdown
fromherseatofthemightyandcalmlysankintoithimself.Hepuzzledher
immensely,butshefeltcertainthatshedidnotpuzzlehimatall.
"Iamnotafraidofanything,"shesaid."Youdon'tunderstandme."
Shestoppedintheroad.
"Onemaychoosenottodoathingwithoutbeingafraidofdoingit."
"Butifitisathingonelongstodo,madame?"
Hemovedonastep,thenlookedbackatLadyWyverneasifsummoningher.
Shestoodfirm,andhestoppedwithsereneresignation.
"Whatoneartharewetalkingabout?"shesaid,shruggingherlittleshoulders
perversely.
"Yourstepfarther."
"Ihavetakenit.AndnowI'mgoingback."
"Andto-morrow?"
"To-morrowyouwillnotbehere."


"ButifI,too,shouldbetemptedtoremain?Barbarysheep,youknow,madame,
Barbarysheep1"
Helaughedsoftly.

"To-morrowIshallgotobedathalf-pasteight,"repliedLadyWyverne,withan
airofvirtuethatwastooviolenttobequiteconvincing."Theatmosphereofthe
deserttiresme."
"Andtomeitgiveslife."
Hewassoclosetoherthatshefeltthewarmthofhisgreatredcloak,andsmelt
thefaintodorofsomestrangeOrientalperfumethatclungtohisgarments.
"Thatisthedifferencebetweenus,"headded."Iamawakeandalive.Youare
dozing.Andheheisfastasleep."
"Hewho?"shesaid,startledbyhistone.
"Milord,yourhusband.Butthoughyouaredozing,youarenotasleep.You
couldbeawakeasIamawake.YoucouldbealiveasIamalive,ifonly"
Hestoppedspeakingandlookeddownather.
"Ifonlywhat?"
"Ifonlyyouwerenotafraidofbeingaliveandoffeelingjoy."
Heseemedtotoweroverher.Hehadstretchedoutonearmandthegreatcloak
madehimlookvastinthenight,vastandenveloping.Theperfumethatcame
fromthefoldsofthisscarletandwhiteclothessuggestedmysteryandsomething
else,adistantecstasythatmightbereachedbytravelling,bygoingforwardand
onward.
"Foryouareafraid,"hesaid."Youareverymuchafraid."
Atthatmomenttherewasashrillcryinthedarknessofthegorge,acrythat
soundedhalfhuman,halfanimal.LadyWyvernestartedandinstinctivelyclung
totheSpahi'sarm.Instantlythewarmfoldsofhiscloakwereroundher.Thecry
roseuponcemore,shrill,prolonged,andnearer.Thenoutofthegorge,intothe


moonlightthatlayupontheroad,therecameamancaperingandrunning.His
facewasfairandpale,likethefaceofaChristinapicture,withacurling,
yellow-brownbeardandvacant,restless,blueeyes.Inhisthinhandsheheldan
enormousstaff.Hewasdressedinbrightgreen,andonhisheadtherewasa

green-and-redturban.
"Allah!"heshrieked,whirlingthestaffroundandround,thenpointingit
suddenlytoleftandright."Allah!Allah!Al--"
LadyWyvernecoweredagainsttheSpahi.Toherstrung-upimaginationit
seemedasifthegorgehadsuddenlyletlooseacrazyMessiahtopointathera
fingerofcondemnation.Shetrembledasthestrangefigurestoppedbeforeher,as
itsshrillcrydiedawayinachildishwhimper,anditslarge,paleeyesrestedupon
hersinaglanceofdullamazement.
"Whatis?"shebegan,stammering.
"ItisonlythemadMarabout,"saidtheSpahi,keepinghisarmroundher
protectively.
"ThemadMarabout?"
"HewasarichmanofthevillageofAkbara,theredvillage,andloveda
dancing-girlofBeni-Mora.Onenightintheweekoftheracesthegirlwas
murderedforherjewelsbyaMehaririderfromTouggourt.Sincethenhehas
beenmad.Helivesalwaysout-of-doors.Heeatsonlywhatheisgiven,whatis
putintohishand.Hesleepsupontheground.Bynighthewanders,seekingthe
girlwhoisdeadandcallinguponAllahtoassisthim.Allah!Allah!"
SuddenlytheSpahilifteduphisvoiceinapowerfulcry.InstantlytheMarabout
beganoncemoretowhirlhisstaff.
"Allah!"heshrieked."Allah!Allah!"
Andhecaperedalongtheroadtowardsthedesert,strikingtorightandleftof
himasifattackingthemoonbeamsthatborehimcompany.
"HeseesthemurdererofAyeshaineveryrayofthelight-giver,"saidtheSpahi.
"Whynotinus,then?"saidLadyWyverne,withashudder.


"Whoknowswhy?Whocanreadinthesoulofthemadman?"
TheMaraboutwaslostinthenight,andsuddenlyLadyWyvernewasawareof
thearmenclosingher.Shemovedquicklyanditfellfromabouther.Butasshe

walkedonshestillseemedtofeelit,asonewhohasbeentouchedbyapowerful
hypnotistseemstofeelthemagnetichandlongafterithasbeenremoved.


V
THATnight,asLadyWyvernelayawake,listeningtothesoundoftheriver
passingthroughthegorgeonitswaytotheSahara,shewastroubledasshehad
neverbeentroubledbefore.Herlightnotwickedandfashionablelifehadalways
hithertobeengovernedbycaprice,butcapricehadledheralwaysdownflowery
pathwaysstretchingintospaceswashedwithlight,'neverintothedimnessof
mysteryortheblacknessofsorrow.Shehadoftenfeltquicklybutnever
passionately.Waywardshehadeverbeen,butnotviolent,notreallyreckless;a
creatureoffantasy,notmacreatureoftempest.ThesongoftheArabunderthe
rockrivershehadbeenlikethat;likeawinding,airytunegoingoutintothesun.
Nowshewasconsciousofthefurthermysteries,thatleadsomewomenonto
deedsthatstrikelikehammersuponthesmoothcomplacenciesofsociety,she
wasawareofthebeckoningfingerthatpilotstheeagersoulwhitheritshouldnot
go,amongthegreatwasteswhereemotionbroodsandwonderisalive.
Forthefirsttimeinherwell-filledlifeshewasveryconsciouslyinwant.She
hadbeenfondofchange,yes,butofsuchconsecratedchange;thechangefrom
MayfairtoMonteCarlo,orfromtheScotchmoorstotheRuedelaPaix.Now,
suddenly,thislifeseemedtoherasunrealasaharlequinadeinwhichshehad
beenplayingColumbine,andsomethingwithinherdesiredaviolentlydifferent
life.
Thatshecouldhaveitwasimpossible.Thereforeshewasunhappy.Itwasanew
experiencetohertobeconfrontedbythatwordimpossible.Itseemedtoinsult
her.Alltheflowerofhercarelesscontentmentwithherself,andherlife,andthe
littlekingdomshehadruled,shrivelledup.Shewasthechildcryingforthe
moon.
Butshewasachildwhohadbeenofferedthemoon,whowouldbeofferedthe

moonagain.Where,then,wastheimpossibilityshebroodedover?Itwascreated
byherselfandexistedwithinherself.Thesoul's--"couldneverdothat!"wasthe
fiatthatexpressedit.
Withthesoundoftheriverseemedtocometoherfaintlythecryofthemad
Maraboutseekingthemurdereddancing-girlinthemoonbeams.Itwasacry
fromthesavageworldonthresholdofwhichshestood.


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