Part 1 out of 8
Produced by Suzanne Shell, David Gundry, Michael Lockey,
Martin Agren, Tonya Allen and PG Distributed Proofreaders
C.N. & A.M. Williamson
"The Port of Adventure"
"The Heathen Moon", Etc.
D.D. AND F.C.J.
WHO WERE THERE WHEN
[Illustration: "A man with a green turban?" I repeated. "Well, I'll
WE DEDICATE THIS STORY OF ADVENTURES GRAVE AND GAY IN EGYPT
I. The Secret and the Girl
II. Cleopatra and the Ship's Mystery
III. A Disappointment and a Dragoman
IV. A Man in a Green Turban
V. The Café of Abdullahi
VI. The Great Sir Marcus
VII. The Revelations of a Retired Colonel
VIII. Foxy Duffing
IX. What Happened When My Back Was Turned
X. The Secret Monny Kept
XI. The House of the Crocodile
XII. The Night of the Full Moon
XIII. An Underground Proposal
XIV. The Desert Diary Begun
XV. The Desert Diary to Its Bitter End
XVI. An Oiled Hand
XVII. The Ship's Mystery Again
XVIII. The Asiut Affair
XIX. "If at First You Don't Succeed"
XX. The Zone of Fire
XXI. The Opening Door
XXII. The Driver of an Arabeah
XXIII. Bengal Fire
XXIV. Playing Heavy Father to Rachel
XXVI. What We Said: What We Heard
XXVII. The Inner Sanctuary
XXVIII. Worth Paying For
XXIX. Exit Antoun
XXX. The Sirdar's Ball
XXXI. The Mountain of the Golden Pyramid
XXXII. The Secret
IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT
THE SECRET AND THE GIRL
The exciting part began in Cairo; but perhaps I ought to go back to
what happened on the _Laconia_, between Naples and Alexandria. Luckily
no one can expect a man who actually rejoices in his nickname of
"Duffer" to know how or where a true story should begin.
The huge ship was passing swiftly out of the Bay of Naples, and already
we were in the strait between Capri and the mainland. I had come on
deck from the smoking-room for a last look at poor Vesuvius, who lost
her lovely head in the last eruption. I paced up and down, acutely
conscious of my great secret, the secret inspiring my voyage to Egypt.
For months it had been the hidden romance of life; now it began to seem
real. This is not the moment to tell how I got the papers that revealed
the secret, before I passed them on to Anthony Fenton at Khartum, for
him to say whether or not the notes were of real importance. But the
papers had been left in Rome by Ferlini, the Italian Egyptologist,
seventy years ago, when he gave to the museum at Berlin the treasures
he had unearthed. It was Ferlini who ransacked the pyramids all about
Meroë, that so-called island in the desert, where in its days of
splendour reigned the queens Candace. Fenton, stationed at Khartum, an
eager dabbler in the old lore of Egypt, sent me an enthusiastic
telegram the moment he read the documents. They confirmed legends of
the Sudan in which he had been interested. Putting two and two
together--the legends and Ferlini's notes--Anthony was convinced that
we had the clue to fortune. At once he applied for permission to
excavate under the little outlying mountain named by the desert folk
"the Mountain of the Golden Pyramid." At first the spot was thought to
fall within the province given up to Garstang, digging for Liverpool
University. Later, however, the _Service des Antiquités_ pronounced the
place to be outside Garstang's borders, and it seemed that luck was
coming our way. No one but we two--Fenton and I--had any inkling of
what might lie hidden in the Mountain of the Golden Pyramid. That was
the great secret! Then Fenton had gone to the Balkans, on a flying trip
in every sense of the word. It was only a fortnight ago--I being then
in Rome--that I had had a wire from him in Salonica saying, "Friends at
work to promote our scheme. Meet me on my return to Egypt." After that,
several telegrams had been exchanged; and here I was on the _Laconia_
bound for the land of my birth, full of hope and dreams.
For some moments distant Vesuvius had beguiled my thoughts from the
still more distant mountain of the secret, when suddenly a white girl
in a white hood and a long white cloak passed me on the white deck:
whereupon I forgot mountains of reality and dreams. She was one of
those tall, slim, long-limbed, dryad-sort of girls they are running up
nowadays in England and America with much success; and besides all
that, she was an amazing symphony in white and gold against an azure
Italian sea and sky, the two last being breezily jumbled together at
the moment for us on shipboard. She walked well in spite of the blue
turmoil; and if a fair girl with golden-brown hair gets herself up in
satiny white fur from head to foot she is evidently meant to be looked
at. Others were looking: also they were whispering after she went by:
and her serene air of being alone in a world made entirely for her
caused me to wonder if she were not Some One in Particular.
Just then a sweet, soft voice said, close to my ear:
"Why, Duffer, dear, it can't possibly be you!"
I gave a jump, for I hadn't heard that voice for many a year, and
between the ages of four and fourteen I had been in love with it.
"Brigit O'Brien!" said I. Then I grabbed her two hands and shook them
as if her arms had been branches of a young cherry tree, dropping
"Why not Biddy?" she asked. "Or are ye wanting me to call ye Lord
"Good heavens, no! Once a Duffer, always a Duffer," I assured her. "And
I've been thinking of you as Biddy from then till now. Only--"
"'Twas as clever a thing as a boy ever did," she broke in, with one of
her smiles that no man ever forgets, "to begin duffing at an early age,
in order to escape all the professions and businesses your pastors and
masters proposed, and go your own way. Are ye at it still?"
"Rather! But you? I want to talk to you."
"Then don't do it in a loud voice, if you please, because, as you must
have realized, if you've taken time to think, I'm Mrs. Jones at
"Because Smith is engaged beforehand by too many people. Honestly,
without joking, I'm in danger here and everywhere, and it's a wicked,
selfish thing for me to come the way I have; but Rosamond Gilder is the
hardest girl to resist you ever saw, so I'm with her; and it's a long
"Rosamond Gilder? What--the Cannon Princess, the Bertha Krupp of
"Yes, the 'Gilded Babe' that used to be wheeled about in a caged
perambulator guarded by detectives: the 'Gilded Bud' whose coming out
in society was called the Million Dollar Début: now she's just had her
twenty-first birthday, and the Sunday Supplements have promoted her to
be the Golden Girl, alternating with the Gilded Rose, although she's
the simplest creature, really, with a tremendous sense of the
responsibility of her riches. Poor child! There she is, walking toward
us now, with those two young men. Of course, young men! Droves of young
men! She can't get away from them any more than she can from her money.
No, she's stopped to talk to Cleopatra."
"That tall, white girl Rosamond Gilder! Just before you came, I was
wondering who she was; and when you smiled at each other across the
deck it sprang into my mind that--that--"
"Oh, it seems stupid now."
"Give me a chance to judge, dear Duffer."
"Well, seeing you, and knowing--that is, it occurred to me you might be
travelling with--the daughter of--your late--"
"Good heavens, don't say any more! I've been frightened to death
somebody would get that brilliant notion in his head, especially as
Monny and her aunt came on board the _Laconia_ only at Monaco. Esmé
O'Brien is in a convent school not thirty miles from there. But that's
the _deepest_ secret. Poor Peter Gilder's fears for his millionaire
girl would be child's play to what might happen, before such a mistake
was found out if once it was made. That's just one of the hundred
reasons why it would be as safe for Monny Gilder to travel with a bomb
in her dressing-bag as to have me in her train of dependants. She
telegraphed to New York for me, because of a stupid thing I said in a
letter, about being lonely: though she pretends it would be too dull
journeying to such a romantic country alone with a mere aunt. And she
thinks I 'attract adventures.' It's only too true. But I couldn't
resist her. Nobody can. Why, the first time I ever saw Monny she'd cast
herself down in a mud-puddle, and was screaming and kicking because she
wanted to walk while one adoring father, one sycophantic governess and
two trained nurses wanted her to get into an automobile. That was on my
honeymoon--heaven save the mark--! and Monny was nine. She has other
ways now of getting what she wants, but they're even more effective. I
laughed at her that first time, and she was so surprised at my
impudence she took a violent fancy to me. But I don't always laugh at
her now. Oh, she's a perfect terror, I assure you--and a still more
perfect darling! Such an angel of charity to the poor, such a demon of
obstinacy with the rich! I worship her. So does Cleopatra. So does
everybody who doesn't hate her. So will you the minute you've been
introduced. And by the way, why not? Why shouldn't I make myself useful
for once by arranging a match between Rosamond Gilder, the prettiest
heiress in America, and Lord Ernest Borrow, of the oldest family in
"And the poorest."
"All the more reason why. Don't you _see?_"
"Well, what's the good of her having all that money if she doesn't get
hold of a really grand title to hang it on? I shall tell her that
Borrow comes down from Boru, Brian Boru the rightful King of Ireland:
and when your brother dies you'll be Marquis of Killeena."
"He'll not die for thirty or forty years, let's hope."
"Why hope it, when he likes nobody and nobody likes him, and everybody
likes you? He can't be happy. And anyhow, isn't it worth a few millions
to be Lady Ernest Borrow, and have the privilege of restoring the most
beautiful old castle in Ireland? I'm sure Killeena would let her."
"He would, out of sheer, weak kindness of heart! But she's far too
thickly gilded an heiress for me to aspire to. A few thousands a year
is my most ambitious figure for a wife. Look at the men collecting
around her and the wonderful lady you call Cleopatra. Why Cleopatra?
Did sponsors in baptism--"
"No, they didn't. _Why_ she's Cleopatra is as weird a history as why
I'm Mrs. Jones. But she's Monny's aunt--at least, she's a half-sister
of Peter Gilder, and as his only living relative his will makes her
Monny's guardian till the girl marries or reaches twenty-five. A
strange guardian! But he didn't know she was going to turn into
Cleopatra. She wisely waited to do that until he was dead; so it came
on only a year ago. It was a Bond Street crystal-gazer transplanted to
Fifth Avenue told her who she really was: you know Sayda Sabri, the
woman who has the illuminated mummy? It's Cleopatra's idea that Monny's
second mourning for Peter should be white, nothing but white."
"Her idea! But I thought Miss Monny, as you call her, adopted only her
own ideas. How can a mere half-aunt, labouring under the name of
Cleopatra, force her--"
"Well, you see, white's very becoming; and as for the Cleopatra part,
it pleases our princess to tolerate that. It's part of the queer
history that's mixing me up with the family. We've come to spend the
season in Egypt because Cleopatra thinks she's Cleopatra; also because
Monny (that's what she's chosen to call herself since she tried to lisp
'Resamond' and couldn't) because Monny has read 'The Garden of Allah,'
and wants the 'desert to take her.' That book had nothing to do with
Egyptian deserts; but any desert will do for Monny. What she expects it
to do with her exactly when it has taken her, on the strength of a Cook
ticket, I don't quite know; but I may later, because she vows she'll
keep me at her side with hooks of steel all through the tour--unless
something worse happens to me, or to some of us _because_ of me."
"Biddy, dear, don't be morbid. Nothing bad will happen," I tried to
"Thank you for saying so. It cheers me up. We women folk are so in the
habit of believing anything you men folk tell us. It's really quaint!"
"Stop rotting, and tell me about yourself; and a truce to heiresses and
Cleopatras. You know I'm dying to hear."
"Not a syllable, until you've told me about _your_self. Where you're
going, and what the dickens for!"
We laughed into each other's eyes. To do so, I had to look a long way
down, and she a long way up. This in itself is a pleasantly Victorian
thing for a man to do in these days of Jerrybuilt girls, on the same
level or a story or two higher than himself. I'm not a tall man: just
the dull average five foot ten or eleven that appears taller, while it
keeps lean--so naturally I have a hopeless yearning for nymph-like
creatures who pretend to be engaged when I ask them to dance. Still,
there's consolation and homely comfort in talking with a little woman
who makes you feel the next best thing to a giant. Biddy is an
old-fashioned five foot four in her highest heels; and as she smiled up at
me I saw that she hadn't changed a jot in the last ten years, despite
the tragedy that had involved her. Not a silver thread in the black
hair, not a line on the creamy round face.
"You're just yourself," I said.
"I oughtn't to be. I know that very well. I ought to be a Dido and
Niobe and Cassandra rolled into one. I'm a brute not to be dead or look
a hag. I've gone through horrors, and the secrets I know could put
dozens of people in prison, if not electrocute them. But you see I'm
not the right type of person for the kind of life I've had, as I should
be if I were in a story book, and the author had created me to suit my
background. I can't help flapping up out of my own ashes before they're
cold. I can't help laughing in the face of fate."
"And looking a girl of twenty-three, at most, while you do it!"
"If I look a girl, I must be a phenomenon as well as a phoenix, for
nobody knows better than you that my Bible age is thirty-one if it's a
day. And I think Burke and Debrett have got the same tale to tell about
"They have. I was always delighted to share something with you."
"You can have the whole share of my age over twenty-six. There's one
advantage 'Mrs. Jones' has. She can, if her looking-glass doesn't
forbid, go back to that classic age dear to all sensible adventuresses.
I'm afraid I come under the head of adventuress, with my alias, and
travelling as companion to the rich Miss Gilder."
"You're the last person on earth for the part! Your fate was thrust on
you. You've thrust yourself on no one. Miss Gilder 'achieved' you."
"Collected me, rather, as one of her 'specimens.' She has a noble
weakness for lame ducks, and though she fails sometimes in trying to
strengthen their game legs, she tries gloriously. She and her aunt have
been travelling in France and Italy, guided by instinct and French
maids, and already Monny has picked up two weird _protégées_, sure to
bring her to grief. The most exciting and deadly specimen is a
perfectly beautiful American girl just married to a Turkish Bey who met
her in Paris, and is taking her home to Egypt. I haven't even seen the
unfortunate houri, because the Turk has shut her up in their cabin and
pretends she's seasick. Monny doesn't believe in the seasickness, and
sends secret notes in presents of flowers and boxes of chocolate. But I
have seen the Turk. He's pink and white and looks angelic, except for a
gleam deep down in his eyes, if Monny inquires after his wife when any
of her best young men are hanging about. Especially when there's Neill
Sheridan, a young Egyptologist from Harvard, Monny met in Paris, or
Willis Bailey, a fascinating sculptor who wants to study the crystal
eyes of wooden statues in the Museum at Cairo. He is going to make them
the fashion in America, next year. Yes, Madame Rechid Bey is a most
explosive _protégée_ for a girl to have, on her way to Egypt. I'm not
sure even I am not innocuous by comparison; though I do wish you hadn't
reminded me of my poor little step-daughter Esmé, in her convent-school.
If any one should get the idea that Monny--but I won't put it
in words! Besides me, and the brand-new bride of Rechid Bey ('Wretched
Bey' is our name for him), there's one more _protégée_, a Miss Rachel
Guest from Salem, Massachusetts, a school-teacher taking her first
holiday. That _sounds_ harmless, and it looks harmless to an amateur;
but wait till _you_ meet her and see what instinct tells you about her
eyes. Oh, we shall have ructions! But that reminds me. You haven't told
me where you're bound--or anything."
"Thanks for putting me among the 'specimens.' But this sample hasn't
yet been collected by Miss Gilder."
"You might be her salvation, and keep her out of mischief. She's quite
wild now with sheer joy because she's going to Egypt. But do be
serious, and tell me all I pine to know, if you want me to do the same
"Well--though it's unimportant compared to what you have to tell! I'm
an insignificant second secretary to Sir Raymond Ronalds, the British
Ambassador at Rome. I've got four months' leave----"
"Ah, _that's_ what comes of duffing so skilfully, and avoiding all the
things you didn't want to do, till you got exactly what you did want! I
remember when we were small boy and girl, and you used to walk down to
the vicarage every day, to talk Greek or Latin or something with
"No, to see you!"
"Well, you used to tell me, if you couldn't be the greatest
prize-fighter or the greatest opera-singer in the world, you thought
you'd like to be a diplomat.
"I haven't become a diplomat yet, in spite of Foreign Office grubbing.
But I've been enjoying life pretty well, fagging up Arabic and modern
Greek, and playing about with pleasant people, while pretending to do
my duty. Now I've got leave on account of a mild fever which turned out
a blessing in disguise. I could have found no other excuse for Egypt
"You speak as if you had some special reason for going to Egypt."
"I've been wishing to go, more or less, for years, because you know--if
you haven't forgotten--I was accidentally born in Cairo while my father
was fighting in Alexandria. My earliest recollections are of Egypt, for
we lived there till I was four--about the time I met and fell in love
with you. I've always thought I'd like to polish up old memories. But
my special hurry is because I'm anxious to meet a friend, a chap I
admire and love beyond all others. I want to see him for his own sake,
and for the sake of a plan we have, which may make a lot of difference
for our future."
"How exciting! Did I ever know him?"
"I think not."
"Well? Don't you mean to tell me who he is?"
I hesitated, sorry I had let myself go: because Anthony had written
that he didn't want his movements discussed at present.
"I'll tell you another time," I said. "I want to talk about you.
Anybody else is irrelevant."
"Clever Duffer! Your friend is a _secret_."
"Not he! But if there's a secret anywhere, it's only a dull, dusty sort
of secret. You wouldn't be interested."
"Women never are, in secrets. Well, I'm glad somebody else besides
myself has a mystery to hide."
"You're very quick."
"I'm Irish! But I'm merciful. No more questions--till you're off your
guard. You're free to ask me all you like, if there's anything you care
to know which horrid newspapers haven't told you these last few years."
"There are a thousand things. You didn't answer anybody's letters,
"After Richard died. Oh, I can talk about it, now. It was the best
thing that could happen for him, poor fellow. Life in hiding was
purgatory. No, I couldn't answer letters, though my old friends (you
among them) wanted to be kind. There wasn't anything I could let
anybody do for me. Monny Gilder's different. You'll soon see why."
I smiled indulgently. But, though I was to be introduced to Miss Gilder
for the purpose of being eventually gilded by her, at the instant my
thoughts were for my childhood's sweetheart.
Brigit Burne made a terrible mess of things in marrying, when she was
eighteen or so, Richard O'Brien, in the height of his celebrity as a
socialist leader. People still believed in him then, at the time of his
famous lecturing tour and visit to his birthplace on our green island;
and though he was more than twice her age, the fascination he had for
Biddy surprised few who knew him.
He was eloquent, in a fiery way. He had extraordinary eyes, and it was
his pride to resemble portraits of Lord Byron. After an acquaintance of
a month, Biddy married O'Brien (I had just gone up to Oxford at the
time, or I should have tried not to let it happen), went to America
with him, and voluntarily ceased to exist for her friends.
Poor girl, she must have had an awakening! He had posed as a bachelor;
but after her marriage she found out (and the world with her) that he
was a widower with one child, a little girl he had practically
abandoned. Biddy adopted her, though the mother had been a rather
undesirable Frenchwoman; and now when I saw her smiling at the tall
white girl on the _Laconia_, I had thought for an instant that Biddy
and her stepdaughter might be in flight together. O'Brien was a
drunkard, as well as a demagogue; and not long after Brigit's flitting
with him there was a scandal about the accepting of bribes from
politicians on the opposing side, apparently his greatest enemies; but
a minor scandal compared to what came some years afterward. O'Brien's
name was implicated in the blowing up of the _World-Republican_
Building in Washington, and the wrecking of Senator Marlowe's special
train after his speech against socialist interests, but the coward
turned informer against his friends and associates in the secret
society of which he had been a leader, and saved himself by sending
them to prison. From that day until his death he lived the life of a
hunted animal flying from the hounds of vengeance. Brigit stood by him
in spite of threats against her life as well as his, and the life of
the child. Since then, though she answered none of our letters, we had
heard rumours. The girl Esmé, whom the avengers had threatened to
kidnap, was supposed to be hidden in some convent-school in Europe. As
for Brigit, she was said to be training for a hospital nurse: reported
to have become a missionary in India, China, and one or two other
countries; seen on the music-hall stage, and traced to Johannesburg,
where she had married a diamond-merchant; yet here she was on board the
_Laconia_, unchanged in looks, or nature, and the guest of a much
paragraphed, much proposed to American heiress _en route_ to Egypt.
While Brigit was telling me the real story of her last two years, as
governess, companion, teacher of music, and journalist, Miss Gilder
regarded us sidewise from amid her bodyguard of young men. Evidently
she was dying to know who was the acquaintance her darling Biddy had
picked up in mid-Mediterranean the moment her back was turned; and at
last, unable to restrain herself longer, she made use of some magic
trick to attach the band of youths to her aunt. Then, separating
herself with almost indecent haste from the group, she marched up to
us, gazing--I might say, staring--with large unfriendly eyes at the
Brigit promptly accounted for me, however, rolling her "r's"
patriotically because I reminded her of Ireland. "Do let me introduce
Lord Ernest Borrow," she said. "I must have told you about him in my
stories, when you were a child, for he was me first love."
"It was the other way round," I objected. "She wouldn't look at me. I
Biddy glared a warning. Her eyes said, "Silly fellow, don't you know
every girl wants to be the one and only love of a man's life?"
I had supposed that this old craze had gone out of fashion. But perhaps
there are a few primitive things which will never go out of fashion
Now that I had Miss Gilder's proud young face opposite mine, I saw that
it wasn't quite so perfect as I'd fancied when she flashed by in her
tall whiteness. Her nose, pure Greek in profile, seen in full was
--well, just neat American: a straight, determined little
twentieth-century nose. The full red mouth, not small, struck me as being
determined also, rather than classic, despite the daintily drawn
cupid's bow of the short upper lip. I realized too that the
long-lashed, wide-open, and wide-apart eyes were of the usual bluish-gray
possessed by half the girls one knows. And as for the thick wavy hair
pushed crisply forward by the white hood, now it was out of the sun's
glamour, there was more brown than gold in it. I said to myself, that
the face with the firm cleft chin was only just pretty enough to give a
great heiress or a youthful princess the reputation of a beauty; a
combination desired and generally produced by journalists. Then, as I
was thinking this, while Brigit explained me, Miss Gilder suddenly
smiled. I was dazzled. No wonder Biddy loved her. It would be a wonder
if I didn't love her myself before I knew what was happening.
And so I should instantly have done, perhaps, if it hadn't been for
Biddy's eyes seeming to come between mine and Miss Gilder's: and the
fact that at the moment I was in quest of another treasure than a
woman's heart. My thoughts were running ahead of the ship to
Alexandria, to find out from Anthony Fenton ("Antoun Effendi" the
biggest boys used to nickname him at school) more about the true
history of that treasure than he dared trust to paper and ink and the
So I put off falling in love with Rosamond Gilder till I should have
seen Anthony, and tidied up my distracted mind. A little later would
do, I told myself, because (owing to the fact that my ancestral castle
had figured in Biddy's tales of long ago) I was annexed as one of the
_protégés_; allowed to make a fifth at the small, flowery table under a
desirable porthole in the green and white restaurant; also I was
invited to go about with the ladies and show them Cairo. Just how much
"going about," and falling in love, I should be able to do there,
depended on "Antoun Effendi." But when Biddy congratulated me on my
luck, and chance of success in the "scheme," I said nothing of Anthony.
CLEOPATRA AND THE SHIP'S MYSTERY
Now, at last, I can skip over the three days at sea, and get to our
arrival at Alexandria, because, as I've said, the exciting part began
soon after, at Cairo.
They were delightful days, for the _Laconia_ is a Paris hotel disguised
as a liner. And no man with blood in his veins could help enjoying the
society of Brigit O'Brien and Rosamond Gilder. Cleopatra, too, was not
to be despised as a charmer; and then there was the human interest of
the _protégées_, the one with the eyes and the one who had reluctantly
developed into the Ship's Mystery.
Still, in spite of Biddy and Monny and the others, and not for them, my
heart beat fast when, on the afternoon of the third day out from
Naples, the ship brought us suddenly in sight of something strange. We
were moving through a calm sea, more like liquefied marble than water,
for it was creamy white rather than blue, veined with azure, and
streaked, as marble is, with pink and gold. Far away across this
gleaming floor blossomed a long line of high-growing lotus flowers,
white and yellow against a silver sky. The effect was magical, and the
wonder grew when the big flower-bed turned into domes and cupolas and
spires rising out of the sea. Unimaginative people remarked that the
coast looked so flat and uninteresting they didn't see why Alexander
had wanted to bother with it; but they were the sort of people who
ought to stop at home in London or Birmingham or Chicago and not make
innocent fellow-passengers burn with unchristian feelings.
Soon I should see Anthony and hear his news. I felt sure he would be at
Alexandria to meet the ship. When "Antoun Effendi" makes up his mind to
do a thing, he will crawl from under a falling sky to do it. As the
_Laconia_ swept on, I hardly saw the glittering city on its vast
prayer-rug of green and gold, guarded by sea forts like sleepy
crocodiles. My mind's eyes were picturing Anthony as he would look
after his wild Balkan experiences: brown and lean, even haggard and
bearded, perhaps, a different man from the smart young officer of
everyday life, unless he'd contrived to refit in the short time since
his return to Egypt--a day or two at most, according to my calculation.
But all my imaginings fell short of the truth.
As I thought of Anthony, Mrs. East came and stood beside me. I knew she
was there before I turned to look, because of the delicate tinkling of
little Egyptian amulets, which is her accompaniment, her _leit motif_,
and because of the scent of sandalwood with which, in obedience to the
ancient custom of Egyptian queens, she perfumes her hair.
I don't think I have described Monny Gilder's aunt, according to my
conception of her, though I may have hinted at Biddy's. Biddy having a
habit of focussing her sense of humour on any female she doesn't wholly
love, may not do Mrs. East justice. The fact is, Monny's aunt is a
handsome creature, distinctly a charmer who may at most have reached
the age when Cleopatra--Antony's and Caesar's Cleopatra--died in the
prime of her beauty. If Mrs. East chooses to date herself at thirty-three,
any man not a confirmed misanthrope must believe her. Biddy says
that until Peter Gilder was safely dead, Clara East was just an
ordinary, well-dressed, pleasure-loving, novel-reading,
chocolate-eating, respectable widow of a New York stockbroker:
superstitious perhaps; fond of consulting palmists, and possessing
Billikens or other mascots: (how many women are free from
superstition?) slightly oriental in her love of sumptuous colours
and jewellery; but then her mother (Peter Gilder's step-mother)
was a beautiful Jewish opera singer. After Peter's death, his
half-sister gave up novels for Egyptian and Roman history,
took to studying hieroglyphics, and learning translations of
Greek poetry. She invited a clairvoyant and crystal-gazer, claiming
Egyptian origin, to visit at her Madison Square flat. Sayda Sabri,
banished from Bond Street years ago, took up her residence in New York,
accompanied by her tame mummy. Of course, it is the mummy of a
princess, and she keeps it illuminated with blue lights, in an inner
sanctum, where the bored-looking thing stands upright in its
brilliantly painted mummy case, facing the door. About the time of
Sayda's visit, it was noticed by Mrs. East's friends (this, according
to Biddy) that the colour of the lady's hair was slowly but surely
changing from black to chestnut, then to auburn; she was heard to
remark casually that Queen Cleopatra's hair had been red. She took to
rich Eastern scents, to whitening her face as Eastern women of rank
have whitened theirs since time immemorial. The shadows round her
almond-shaped eyes were intensified: her full lips turned from
healthful pink to carmine. The ends of her tapering fingers blushed
rosily as sticks of coral. The style of her dress changed, at the
moment of going into purple as "second mourning" for Peter, and became
oriental, even to the turban-like shape of her hats, and the design of
her jewellery. She did away with crests and monograms on handkerchiefs,
stationery, luggage and so on, substituting a curious little oval
containing strange devices, which Monny discovered to be the
"cartouche" of Cleopatra. Then the whole truth burst forth. Sayda
Sabri's crystal had shown that Clara East, née Gilder, was the
reincarnation of Cleopatra the Great of Egypt. There had been another
incarnation in between, but it was of no account, and, like a poor
relation who has disgraced a family, the less said about it the better.
The lady did not proclaim her identity from the housetops. Rare souls
possessing knowledge of Egyptian lore might draw their own conclusions
from the cartouche on her note-paper and other things. Only Monny and a
few intimates were told the truth at first; but afterward it leaked
out, as secrets do; and Mrs. East seemed shyly pleased if discreet
questions were asked concerning her amulets and the cartouche.
Now, I never feel inclined to laugh at a pretty woman. It is more
agreeable, as well as gallant, to laugh with her; but the trouble is,
Cleopatra doesn't go in for laughter. She takes life seriously. Not
only has she no sense of humour, but she does not know the difference
between it and a sense of fun, which she can understand if a joke
(about somebody else) is explained. She is grateful to me because I
look her straight in the eyes when the subject of Egypt is mentioned.
Sheridan from Harvard has been in her bad books since he put Ptolemaic
rulers outside of the pale of Egyptian history, called their art ornate
and bad, mentioned that each of their queens was named Cleopatra and
classified the lot as modern, almost suburban.
Mrs. East, leaning beside me on the rail, was burning with thoughts
inspired by Alexandria. She had "Plutarch's Lives" under her arm, and
"Hypatia" in her hand. Of course, she dropped them both, one after the
other, and I picked them up.
"Do you know, Lord Ernest," she said, in the low, rich voice she is
cultivating, "I don't mind telling you that I felt as if I were coming
home, after a long absence. Monny wanted to see Egypt; I was dying to.
That's the difference between us."
"It's natural," I answered, sympathetically.
"Yes--considering everything. Yet we're both afraid. She in one way, I
in another. I haven't told her. She hasn't told me. But I know. She has
the same impression I have, that something's going to _happen_
--something very great, to change the whole of life--in Egypt: 'Khem,' it
seems to me I can remember calling it. You know it was Khem, until the
Arabs came and named it Misr. Do you believe in impressions like that?"
"I don't disbelieve," I said. "Some people are more sensitive than
"Yes. Or else they're older souls. But it may be the same thing. I
can't fancy Monny an old soul, can you?--yet she may be, for she's very
intelligent, although so self-willed. I think what she's afraid of is
getting interested in some wonderful man with Turkish or Egyptian
blood, a magnificent creature like you read of in books, you know; then
you have to give them up in the last chapter, and send them away
broken-hearted. I suppose there _are_ such men in real life?"
"I doubt if there are such romantic figures as the books make out," I
tried to reassure her. "There might be a prince or two, handsome and
cultivated, educated in England, perhaps, for some of the 'swells' are
sent from Egypt to Oxford and Cambridge, just as they are in India. But
even if Miss Gilder should meet a man of that sort, I should say she
was too sensible and clear-headed--"
"Oh, she is, almost too much so for a young girl, and she has a
detestation for any one with a drop of dark blood, in America. She
doesn't even like Jews; and that makes friction between us, if we ever
happen to argue, for--maybe you don't know?--my mother was a Jewess.
I'm proud of her memory. But that's just _why_, if you can understand,
Monny's _afraid_ in Egypt. Some girls would like to have a tiny
flirtation with a gorgeous Eastern creature (of course, he must be a
bey, or prince or something, otherwise it would be _infra dig_), but
Monny would hate herself for being attracted. Yet I know she dreads it
happening, because of the way I've heard her rave against the heroines
of novels, saying she has no patience with them; they ought to have
more strength of mind, even if it broke their hearts."
I wondered if Biddy, too, suspected some such fear in the mind of her
adored girl, and if that were one reason why she had turned matchmaker
for my benefit. Since the first day out she had used strategems to
throw us together: and it seemed that, years ago, when she used to
teach the little girl French, Monny's favourite stories had been of
Castle Killeena, and my boyish exploits birds'-nesting on the crags.
(Biddy said that this was a splendid beginning, if I had the sense to
follow it up.)
"And you?" I went on to Mrs. East. "What do you feel is going to happen
to you in the land of Khem?"
"Oh, I don't know," she sighed. "I wish I did! And 'afraid' isn't
exactly the word. I just know that something will happen. I wonder if
history does repeat itself? I should hate to be bitten by an asp----"
"Asps are out of fashion," I comforted her. "I doubt if you could find
one in all of Egypt, though I remember my Egyptian nurse used to say
there were cobras in the desert in summer. Anyhow, we'll be away before
"I suppose so," she agreed. "Yet--who knows what will become of any of
us? Madame Rechid Bey will be staying, of course. I don't know whether
to be sorry for her or not. The Bey's good-looking. He has brown eyes,
and is as white as you or I. Probably it's true that she's been too
seasick to leave her room for the last ten days, though Monny and Mrs.
O'Bri--I mean, Mrs. Jones--think she's shut up because men stared, and
because Mr. Sheridan talked to her. As for me, there's always that
question asking itself in my mind: _'What_ is going to happen?' And I
hear it twice as loud as before, in sight of Alexandria. Rakoti, we
Lagidae used to call the city." As she spoke, the long, oriental eyes
glanced at me sidewise, but my trustworthy Celtic features showed a
grave, intelligent interest in her statements.
"It must be," she went on, encouraged, "that I'm the reincarnation of
Cleopatra, otherwise how _could_ I have the sensation of remembering
everything? There's no other way to account for it! And you know my
modern name, Clara, does begin with 'C.' Sayda must be right. She's
told lots of women the most extraordinary things. You really ought to
consult her, Lord Ernest, if you ever go to New York."
I did not say, as Neill Sheridan might, that a frothy course of
Egyptian historical novels would account for anything. I simply looked
as diplomatic training can teach any one to look.
Evidently it was the right look in the right place, for Cleopatra
continued more courageously, recalling the great Pharos of white marble
which used to be one of the world's wonders in her day; the Museum, and
the marvellous Library which took fire while Julius Caesar burned the
fleet, nearby in the harbour.
"Think of the philosophers who deserted the College of Heliopolis for
Alexandria!" she said. "Antony was more of a soldier than a student,
but even he grieved for the Library. You know he tried to console
Cleopatra by making her a present of two hundred thousand MSS. from the
library of the King of Pergamus. It was a generous thought--like
"Does the harbour looked changed?" I hastened to inquire.
"Not from a distance, though landing may be a shock: they tell me it's
all so Italian now. It was Greek in old days. I've read that there
isn't a stone left of my--of the lovely place on Lochias Point, except
the foundations they found in the seventies. But I must go to see
what's left of the Baths, even though there's only a bit of mosaic and
the remains of a room. Monny's anxious to get on to Cairo, but we shall
come back to Alexandria later. Lord Ernest, when I shut my eyes, I
really do seem to picture the Mareotic Lake, and the buildings that
made Alexandria the glory of the world. Do you remember what Strabo
said about Deinchares, the architect who laid out the plan of the city
in the shape of a Macedonian mantle, to please Alexander?"
"I'm not as well up in history as you are," I said, "though I've
studied a bit, because I was born in Egypt. Poor Alexander didn't live
long in his fine city, did he? I wonder what he'd think of it now? And
I wonder if his palace was handsomer than the Khedive's? That huge
white building with the pillars and domes. I seem to remember----"
"What, you remember, too? You _ought_ to consult Sayda!"
"I didn't mean exactly what you mean," I explained, humbly. "Still, why
shouldn't I have lived in Egypt long ago? The learned ones say you're
always drawn back where you've been in other states of existence----"
"That's true, I'm sure!"
"Well, then, why shouldn't I have the same sort of right to Egypt you
have, if you were Cleopatra?--I believe you must have been, because you
look as she ought to have looked, you know. Why shouldn't I have been a
friend of Marc Antony, coming from Rome to give him good advice and
trying to persuade----"
"Oh, _not_ that he ought to give me up!"
"No, indeed: to urge him to leave the island where he hid even from you
(didn't they call it Timoneum?). Why couldn't Antony play his cards so
as to keep Cleopatra and the world, too? She'd have liked him better,
wouldn't she? My friend Antoun Effendi--I mean Anthony Fenton,"--I
stopped short: for the less said about Fenton the better, at present.
But Cleopatra caught me up.
"What--have you really a friend Antony? Where does he live? and what's
I hesitated; and glancing round for inspiration (in other words for
some harmless, necessary fib) I saw that Brigit and Monny had arrived
on the scene. They had been pacing the deck, arm in arm; and now,
arrested by Mrs. East's question, they hovered near, awaiting my answer
with vague curiosity. A twinkle in Biddy's eyes, which I caught,
rattled me completely. I missed all the easiest fibs and could catch
hold of nothing but the bare truth. There are moments like that, when,
do what you will, you must be truthful or silent; and silence fires
"What is he?" I echoed feebly. "Oh, Captain Fenton. He's in the Gyppy
Army stationed up at Khartum, hundreds of miles beyond where Cook's
boats go. You wouldn't be interested in Anthony, because he spells his
name with an 'H', and he's dark and thin, not a bit like _your_ Antony,
who was a big, stout fellow, I've always heard, and fair." "Big, but
_not_ stout," Cleopatra corrected me. "And--and if he's incarnated
again, he may be dark for a change. As for the 'H', that's not
important. I wonder if we shall meet your Anthony? We think of going to
Khartum, don't we, Monny?"
"Yes," said the girl, shortly. She was always rather short in her
manner at that time when in her opinion her aunt was being "silly."
I gathered from a vexed flash in the gray eyes that there had never
been any hint of an impending Antony.
"Is your friend in Khartum now?" Biddy ventured, in her creamiest
voice. The twinkle was carefully turned off like the light of a dark
lantern, but I knew well that "Mrs. Jones" was recalling a certain
conversation, in which I had refused to satisfy her curiosity. Brigit's
quick, Irish mind has a way of matching mental jigsaw puzzles, even
when vital bits appear to be missing; and if she could make a cat's paw
of Cleopatra, the witch would not be above doing it. I bore her no
grudge--who could bear soft-eyed, laughing, yet tragic Biddy a grudge?
--but I wished that she and Monny were at the other end of the deck.
"I--er--really, I don't know where my friend is just now," I answered,
with more or less foundation of truth.
"I wonder if I didn't read in the papers about a Captain Fenton who
took advantage of leave he'd got, to make a rush for the Balkans, and
see the fighting from the lines of the Allies?" Biddy murmured with
dreadful intelligence. "Can he be your Captain Fenton? I fancy he'd
been stationed in the Sudan; and he was officially supposed to have
gone home to spend his leave in England. Anyhow, there was a row of
some sort after he and another man dropped down on to the Turks out of
a Greek aeroplane. Or was it a Servian one? Anyhow, I know he oughtn't
to have been in it; and 'Paterfamilias' and 'Patriot' wrote letters to
the _Times_ about British officers who didn't mind their own business.
Why, I saw the papers on board this ship! They were old ones. Papers on
ships always are. But I think they came on at Algiers or somewhere."
"Probably 'somewhere,'" I witheringly replied. "_I_ didn't come on at
Algiers, so I don't know anything about it."
"Diplomatists never do know anything official, do they, Duffer dear?"
smiled Biddy. "I'll wager your friend is interesting, even if he does
spell himself with an 'H', and weighs two stone less than his namesake
from Rome. Mrs. East believes in reincarnation, and I'm not sure I
don't, though Monny's so young she doesn't believe in anything. Just
suppose your friend is a reincarnation of Antony without an 'H'? And
suppose, too, by some strange trick of fate he should meet you in
Alexandria or Cairo? You'd introduce him to us, wouldn't you?"
"It's the most unlikely thing in the world. And he'd be no good to you.
He's a man's man. He thinks he doesn't like women."
"Doesn't like women!" echoed Monny Gilder. "He must be a curmudgeon. Or
has he been jilted?"
"Rather not!" Too impulsively I defended the absent. "Girls go mad
about him. He has to keep them off with a stick. He's got other things
to think of than girls, things he believes are more important--though,
of course, he's mistaken. He'll find that out some day, when he has
more time. So far, he's been hunting other game, often in wild places.
A book might be written on his adventures."
"What kind of adventures? Tell us about them," said Biddy, "up to the
Balkan one, which you deny having heard of."
"You wouldn't care about his sort of adventures. There aren't any women
in them," said I. "Women want love stories. It's only the heroines they
care for, not the heroes, and I don't somehow see the right heroine for
I noticed an expression dawning on Cleopatra's face, as I thus bereft
her of a possible Antony (with an "H"). There was a softening of the
long eyes, and the glimmer of a smile which said "Am I Cleopatra for
Never had she looked handsomer. Never before had I thought of her as
really dangerous. I'd been inclined to poke fun at the lady for her
superstition and her cartouche, and Cleopatra-hood in general. But
suddenly I realized that her make-up was no more exaggerated than that
of many a beauty of the stage and of society: and that nowadays, women
who are--well, forty-ish--can be formidable rivals for younger and
simpler sisters. Not that I feared much for Anthony from Cleopatra or
any other female thing, for I'd come to consider him practically
woman-proof; still, I saw danger that the lady might make a dead set at
him, if she got the chance, and all through my stupidity in giving away
his name. "Antony" was a thrilling password to that mysterious "something"
which she expected to happen in Egypt: and already she regarded my
friend as a ram caught in the bushes, for a sacrifice on her altar.
Instead of screening him I had dragged him in front of the footlights.
But fortunately there was still time to jerk down the curtain.
I threw a glance at Brigit and Monny, and was relieved to find that
their attention was distracted by a new arrival: Miss Rachel Guest from
Salem, Massachusetts: a pale, thin, lanky copy of our Rose, with the
beauty and bloom left out; but a pair of eyes to redeem the colourless
face--oh, yes, a pair of eyes! Strange, hungry, waiting eyes.
When I am alone, I fear Monny's favourite _protégée_, who started out
to "see the world" on a legacy of two thousand dollars, and won Miss
Gilder's admiration (and hospitality) through her unassuming pluck. To
my mind she is the ideal adventuress of a new, unknown, and therefore
deadly type; but for once I rejoiced at sight of the pallid, fragile
woman, so cheerful in spite of frail health, so frank about her
twenty-eight years. She had news to tell of a nature so exciting that,
after a whisper or two, Cleopatra forgot Anthony in her desire to know the
latest development in the Ship's Mystery.
"My stewardess says he won't let his wife land till we're all off,"
murmured the ex-schoolmistress, in her colourless voice. "She heard the
end of a conversation, when she carried the poor girl's lunch to the
door--just a word or two. So we shan't see her again, I suppose."
"Oh, yes, we shall," said Monny. "If Wretched Bey can get a private
boat, so can I. I'll not desert her, if I have to stay on board the
_Laconia_ the whole night."
All four began talking together eagerly, and blessing Miss Guest I
sneaked away. Presently I saw that clever Neill Sheridan and handsome,
actor-like Willis Bailey, the two _bętes noires_ of Wretched Bey, had
joined the group.
By this time the roofs and domes and minarets of Alexandria sparkled in
clearly sketched outlines between sunset-sky and sea; sunset of Egypt,
which divided ruby-flame of cloud, emerald dhurra, gold of desert, and
sapphire waters into separate bands of colour, vivid as the stripes of
There was a new buzz of excitement on the decks and in the ivy draped
veranda café. Those who had been studying Baedeker gabbled history,
ancient and modern, until the conquest of Alexander and the bombardment
of '82 became a hopeless jumble in the ears of the ignorant. Bores who
had travelled inflicted advice on victims who had not. People told each
other pointless anecdotes of "the last time I was in Egypt," while
those forced to listen did so with the air of panthers waiting to
pounce. A pause for breath on the part of the enemy gave the wished-for
opportunity to spring into the breach with an adventure of their own.
We took an Arab pilot on board--the first Arab ever seen by the ladies
of my party--and before the red torch of sunset had burned down to
dusky purple, tenders like big, black turtles were swimming out to the
_Laconia_. We slaves of the Rose, however, had surrendered all personal
interest in these objects. The word of Miss Gilder had gone forth, and,
unless Rechid Bey changed his mind at the last minute, we were all to
lurk in ambush until he appeared with his wife. Then, somehow, Monny
was to snatch her chance for a word with the Ship's Mystery; and
whatever happened, none of us were to stir until it had been snatched.
Arguments, even from Biddy, were of no avail, and mine were silenced by
cold permission to go away by myself if I chose. It was terrible, it
was wicked to talk of people making their own beds and then lying in
them. It was nonsense to say that, even if the wife of Rechid Bey asked
for help, we could do nothing. Of course, we would do something! If the
girl wanted to be saved, she should be saved, if Monny had to act
alone. Whatever happened, Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Bailey must remain in
the background, as the very sight of them would drive "Wretched Bey"
I was thinking of Anthony's surprise when one after the other, two
tenders should reach the quay without me; and if the Gilded Rose had
not been so sweet, her youthful cocksureness would have made me yearn
to slap her. In spite of all, however, the girl's excitement became
contagious as passengers crowded down the gangway and Rechid Bey did
"Allah--Allah!" cried the boatman and the Arab porters as they hauled
huge trunks off the ship onto a float. Then one after the other the two
tenders puffed away, packed from stem to stern. A few people for whom
there was no room embarked in small boats manned by jabbering Arabs.
Two of these cockle-shells still moved up and down under the black,
mountainous side of the ship, and the officer whose duty it was to see
the passengers off was visibly restless. He wanted to know if my
lordship was ready; and my lordship's brain was straining after an
excuse for further delay, when a man and woman arrived opportunely;
Rechid Bey and a veiled, muffled form hooked to his arm; a slender,
appealing little figure: and through the veil I fancied that I caught a
gleam of large, wistful, anxious eyes.
The ladies were lying in wait out of sight, and I dodged behind the
sturdy blue shoulders guarding the gangway. This was my first glimpse
of the Ship's Mystery; and though I did not like my job (I had to
surprise Rechid Bey and take his mind off his wife) my curiosity was
pricked. The figure in sealskin looked very girlish; the veiled head
was bowed. The mystery took on human personality for me, and Monny
Gilder was no longer obstinate; she was a loyal friend. I did not see
that we could be of use to the poor little fool who had married a Turk,
yet I was suddenly ready to do what I could. As Rechid Bey brought his
wife to the top of the gangway, I lounged out, and spoke. Disconcerted,
the stout, good-looking man of thirty let drop the arm of the girl,
putting her behind him. And this was what Monny wanted. They would have
an instant for a few disjointed words: Monny might perhaps have time to
promise help which the girl dared not ask, even behind her husband's
"Good evening," I said in French, taking advantage of a smoke-room
acquaintance. "Is that smart boat down there for you? I was trying to
secure it, in my best Arabic, but the fellow said it was engaged."
"Yes, it is mine," Rechid answered, civilly, trying to hide his
annoyance. "I telegraphed from Naples to a friend in Alexandria to send
me a private boat. I do not like crowds."
"Neither do I, so I waited, too," I explained. "They told me there were
always boats, and my big luggage has gone. I suppose yours has, too?"
"No doubt," said Rechid Bey. "Good night, Milord Borrow."
He turned quickly to his wife, as if to catch her at something, but the
slim veiled mystery stood meekly awaiting his will. To my intense
relief Monny and her friends were invisible. I could hardly wait until
the two figures had passed out of sight down the gangway, to know
whether my skirmishing attack had been successful.
"Well?" I asked, as Miss Gilder, "Mrs. Jones," Cleopatra, Rachel Guest,
and two maids filed out from concealment. "Did I give you time enough?
Did you get the chance you wanted?"
"Yes, thank you ever so much," said Monny, with one of those dazzling
smiles that would make her a beauty even if she were not the favourite
Sunday supplement heiress. "I counted on you--and _she_ had counted on
me. She must have known I wouldn't fail her, for she had this bit of
paper ready. When I jumped out she slipped it into my hand. We didn't
need to say a word, and Wretched Bey has no idea I came near her."
"A bit of paper?" I echoed, with interest. For it sounded the obvious
secret thing; a bit of paper stealthily slid from hand to hand.
"Yes, with her address on it--nothing more in writing: but two other
words, pricked with a pin. '_Save me._' Don't you see, if her husband
had pounced on it, no harm would have been done. He wouldn't have
noticed the pin-pricks, as a woman would. I thought she was going to
live in Cairo, and I believe she thought so too, at first. But she's
written down the name of a house in a place called Asiut. Did you ever
hear of such a town, Lord Ernest?"
"Oh, yes," said I. "The Nile boats stop there and people see tombs and
mummied cats and buy silver shawls."
"Good!" said Monny. "_My_ boat shall stop there, but not only for tombs
or cats or silver shawls. I have an idea that the poor girl is
frightened, and wants me to help her escape."
"Great heavens!" I exclaimed. "You mustn't on any account get mixed up
in an adventure of that sort! Remember, this is Egypt----"
"I don't care," said Monny, "if it's the moon."
She believed that this settled the matter. I believed the exact
opposite. But I left it at that, for the moment, as the boat was
waiting, and Asiut seemed a long way off.
This was my first lesson in what Brigit called "Monny's little ways";
but the second lesson was on the heels of the first.
A DISAPPOINTMENT AND A DRAGOMAN
It was a blow not to see Anthony on the quay. And other blows rained
thick and fast. My two consolations were that I was actually in Egypt;
and that in the confusion Rechid Bey with the veiled figure of his
silent bride had slipped away without further incidents. Their
disappearance was regretted by no one save Monny, unless it was Neill
Sheridan, and he was discreet enough to keep his feelings to himself.
The girl was not. She protested on principle, although she had the
Asiut address. But where all men, black and brown and white, were
yelling with the whole force of their lungs, and pitching and tossing
luggage (mostly the wrong luggage) with all the force of their arms,
nobody heard or cared what she said. For once Monny Gilder was
disregarded by a crowd of men. This could happen only at the departure
of a boat train! But if I was not thinking about her, I was thinking
about her fifteen trunks, and Cleopatra's sixteen and Biddy's and Miss
Guest's two. The maids were worse than useless, and I had no valet. I
have never had a valet. I clawed, I fought, I wrestled in an arena
where it was impossible to tell the wild beasts from the martyrs. I
rescued small bags from under big boxes, and dashed off with a few
samples to the train, in order to secure places. All other able-bodied
men, including Sheridan and the artist sculptor Bailey, were engaged in
the same pursuit, and our plan was to "bag" a whole compartment between
us in the boat-special for Cairo. But we never met again till we
reached our destination. One expects Egypt to warm the heart with its
weather, but the cold was bitter; so was the disappointment about
Anthony. Both cut through me like knives. Darkness had fallen before I
was ready to join the ladies--if I could. In passing earlier, I had
shouted to the maids where to find the places, grabbed with difficulty,
for their mistresses. Whether they had found them, or whether any of
the party still existed, was the next question; and it was settled only
as the train began to move. The compartment I had selected was boiling
over with a South American president and his effects; but as I stood
transfixed by this transformation scene, Cleopatra's maid hailed me
from the end of the corridor. _Les quatres dames_ were in the
restaurant car. Why? Ah, it was the Arab they had engaged as dragoman,
who had advised the change in milord's absence. He said it would be
better, as of course they would want dinner. He himself was looking
after the small _baggages_, except the little sacks of the hand which
the maids kept.
What, the ladies had engaged a dragoman! And they had trusted him--a
stranger--with luggage? Then it was as good as gone! But no, mildly
ventured Cleopatra's handmaiden. The dragoman came recommended. He had
a letter from a friend of milord.
My thoughts jumped, of course, to Anthony. Yet how could he have known
that I was travelling with ladies? And if by some Marconian miracle he
had heard, why should he, who prided himself on "not bothering" with
women, trouble to provide a dragoman at Alexandria?
I hurried to the dining car, and found Monny with her satellites seated
at a table, three of them looking as calmly innocent as if they had not
upset my well-laid scheme for their comfort. Biddy alone had a guilty
air, because, perhaps, I was more important in her eyes than in the
eyes of the others. "Oh, dear Duffer," she began to wheedle me: "We
hope you don't mind our coming here? We thought it a good idea, for
we're starving, although we're perfectly happy because we're in Egypt,
and because it's such a _quaint_ train, so different and Eastern. The
"I think he came from your friend Anthony with an 'H,'" Cleopatra broke
in. "He seemed providential. And he speaks English. The only objection
is, he's not as good-looking as Monny and I wanted our dragoman to be.
We did hope to get one who would be _becoming_ to us, you see, and give
the right sort of Eastern background. But I suppose one can't have
_everything!_ And it was I who said your friend Anthony's messenger
must be engaged even if his face is--is--rather like an _accident!_"
"It's like a catastrophe," remarked Monny, looking as if she blamed me.
"Where _is_ it?" I wanted to know.
"It's waiting in a vestibule outside where the cook's cooking," Biddy
explained ungrammatically. "I told it you'd want to see it. And it's
got a letter for you from some one." "Did the fellow say the letter was
from Fenton?" I inquired.
"No. He only said, from a friend who'd expected to meet you; and Mrs.
East was sure it must be from the one you were talking about."
Wasting no more words, I marched off to the fountainhead for
information. Near the open door of the infinitesimal kitchen stood a
fat little dark man with a broken nose, and one white eye. The other
eye, as if to make up, was singularly, repellently intelligent. It
fixed itself upon me, as I approached, with eager questioning which
melted into ingratiating politeness. Instinct warned the fellow that I
was the person he awaited. At the same moment, instinct was busily
whispering to me that there was something fishy about him, despite the
alleged letter. He did not look the type of man Fenton would recommend.
And though his face was of an unwholesome olive tint, and he wore a
tarbush, and a galabeah as long as a dressing-gown, under his short
European coat, I was sure he was not of Arab or Egyptian blood.
"Milord Borrow?" he began, displaying large white teeth, of which he
was evidently proud.
"My name is Bedr el Gemály," he introduced himself. "I have a letter
"Who gave it to you?" I challenged him.
The ingratiating smile seemed to flicker like a candle flame in a
sudden puff of wind. "A friend of my, a dragoman. He could not come to
bring it. So he give it to me. The gentleman's name was Fenton. My
friend, he was sent from him at Cairo." As the fellow spoke, in fairly
good English, he took from a pocket of the short coat which spoiled his
costume, a colourful silk handkerchief. Unwrapping this, he produced an
envelope. It was addressed to me in the handwriting of Fenton, but
before opening it I went on with my catechism.
"Then the letter doesn't introduce you, but your friend?"
The smile was practically dead now. "I think it do not introduce any
ones. It is only a letter. My friend Abdullah engaged to carry it. But
he got sick too soon to come to the ship."
"I see," said I. "You seem to have used the letter, however, to get
yourself taken on as dragoman by the ladies of my party. How the devil
did you find out that they were travelling with me, eh?" I shot the
question at him and tried to imitate gimlets with my eyes. But he was
ready with his answer. No doubt he had prepared it.
"I see you all together, from a distant place, before I come there. A
gentleman off the ship, he pointed you out when I ask where I find
Milord Borrow. I see you, and those ladies. When I come, you was away
already, so I speak to them, and say if I could help, I be very
pleased. When I tell one of the ladies I was from a friend of milord's
with a letter, she say, is the friend's name Captain Fenton, and I say
'yes, madame, Captain Fenton, that is the name; and I am a dragoman to
show Egypt to the strangers. I know it all very well, from Alexandria
way up Nile.' Then the lady say very quick she will take me for her
dragoman. I am pleased, for I was not engaged for season, and she say
if I satisfy her she keep me in Cairo and on from there." "H'm," I
grunted, still screwing in the gimlets. "I see you're not an Egyptian.
You have selected the name of an Armenian famous in history. Are you
"I am the same thing as Egyptian, I bin here for dragoman so many
years. I am Mussulman in faith. But I was born Armenian," he admitted.
"You speak English with an American accent," I went on. "Have you lived
"One time a family take me to New York and I stay a year or two. Then I
get homesick and come to Egypt again. But I learn to talk maybe some
like American peoples while I am over there."
It sounded plausible enough, the whole story. And if Mrs. East had
snapped the dragoman up under the impression that he came from a man
she had determined to meet, the fellow might be no more to blame than
any other boaster, touting in his own interest. Still, I had an uneasy
feeling that something lay hidden under Armenian plausibility. Bedr el
Gemály was perhaps a thief who had courted a chance for a big haul of
jewellery. Yet if that were all, why hadn't he hopped off the tram, as
it began to move, with the ladies' hand luggage? He might easily have
got away, and disappeared into space, before we could wire the police
of Alexandria to look out for him. He had not done that, but had
waited, and risked facing my suspicions. And he must have realized,
while in charge of Monny's and Cleopatra's attractive dressing bags,
that he was missing an opportunity such as might never come to him
again. This conduct suggested an honest desire to be a good dragoman.
Yet--well, I resolved not to let the gimlets rust until Bedr el Gemály
had been got rid of. If Mrs. East had really promised him a permanent
engagement, she could salve his disappointment by giving him a day's
pay. I would take the responsibility of sending him about his business.
Without further parley I opened the letter. It was short, evidently
written in a hurry. Anthony had scribbled:
Horribly sorry, dear old Duffer, but I'm wanted by the Powers that Be
in Cairo. No other reason could have kept me from Alexandria. I was
afraid a wire wouldn't reach you, so I sent a decent old chap by the
train I meant to take. He's pledged to find you on the quay, and he
will--unless some one makes him drunk. This seems unlikely to happen,
as he won't be paid till he gets back, and having no friends on earth,
nobody will stand him drinks. Beastly luck, but I shan't be able to see
you to-night even in Cairo. Tell you all to-morrow--and there's a lot
to tell, about many things.
The messenger had "no friend on earth," according to Fenton. Then the
friendship stated to exist between him and Bedr el Gemály must have
come readymade from heaven, or--its opposite. I guessed the nature of
the "decent old chap's" illness. But I should have been glad to know
whether it had been produced by design or accident.
When I went back to the ladies, Bedr went with me, at my firm
suggestion, and gave them their handbags to use as footstools. Dinner
was ready, and a seat had been kept for me at a table just across the
aisle, but before beginning, I explained the real circumstances
governing the dragoman's arrival. "Whatever else he may be, he's a
shark," I said, "or he wouldn't have traded on a misunderstanding to
grab an engagement. You owe him nothing really, but if you choose, give
him a sovereign when we get to Cairo, and I'll tell him that I have a
dragoman in view for the party. He'll then have two days' pay,
according to the guide-books."
With this, I slipped into my seat, thinking the matter settled. But
between courses, Monny leaned across from her table (she and I had end
seats) and said that she and her aunt had been talking about that poor
dragoman. "Aunt Clara raised his hopes," the girl went on, "and now
Rachel Guest and I think it would be mean to send him away, just
because he's hideous."
"That won't be the reason!" said I. "It will be because we don't know
anything about him, and because in his sharpness he's over-reached
"But we do know things about him. He showed Aunt Clara letters from
people who'd employed him, lots of Americans whose names we've heard,
and some we're acquainted with. The tragic thing is, that he finds
difficulty in getting engaged because of his face. I've felt guilty
ever since I called it a catastrophe. Of course it _is_; but I said it
to be funny, which was cruel. And we deserve to punish ourselves by
keeping the poor wretch a few days, or more, if he's good."
"I thought you wanted a becoming dragoman?" I reminded her.
"Oh, that was just our silliness. I _do_ like good-looking people, I
must say. But what _does_ it matter whether a brown person is handsome
or homely, when you come to think of it? Besides, we can have another
dragoman, too, for ornament, if we run across a very picturesque one."
I laughed. "But you can't go up the Nile on a boat with a drove of
private dragomans, you know!"
"I _don't_ know, Lord Ernest. And why don't you call them dragomen? You
make them sound as if they were some kind of animal."
"Dragomans is the plural," I persisted.
"Well, I shall call them dragomen. And if this poor thing can't get any
one else to drag, he _shall_ drag us up the Nile, if he's as
intelligent in his ways as he is in that one eye, which is so like a
hard-boiled egg. You see, Lord Ernest, we're going to have a boat of
our own. A steam dahabeah is what we want, so we won't be at the mercy
of the wind. And we can have all the dragomen we choose, can't we?"
"I suppose you can fill up your cabins with them," I agreed, because I
felt that the Gilded Rose wished me to argue the point, and that if I
did I should be worsted. As I should not be on board the dahabeah in
question, it would not matter to me personally if the boat were
entirely manned by dragomans. Except that there would in that case
probably be a collision, and I should not be near to save Biddy--and
incidentally the girl Biddy wished me to marry.
After that, we went on eating our dinner and talking of Egypt, Miss
Guest doing all the listening, as usual. When we had finished, we kept
our places because we had no others. Cleopatra was curious about my
friend's failure to arrive, but I put her off with vaguenesses; and
said to myself that, for Anthony's sake, it was well that mysterious
business had kept him in Cairo. Still, I wondered what the business
was: why he would be unable to see me that night: and what were the
"many things" he had to tell.
A MAN IN A GREEN TURBAN
I shall never know for certain whether or not our future was entirely
shaped by Monny's resolve to breakfast on the terrace of Shepheard's
Hotel next morning.
A great many remarkable things have happened on that historic site.
Napoleon made the place his headquarters. General Klčber was murdered
in the garden. Half the most important people in the world have had tea
on the terrace: but, according to a German waiter, there was one deed
yet undone. Nobody had ever ordered breakfast out of doors.
Of course, Monny got what she wanted. Not by storming, not by putting
on power-of-wealth airs, but simply by turning bright pink and looking
large-eyed. At once that waiter rushed off, and fetched other waiters;
and almost before the invited guests knew what to expect, two tables
had been fitted together, covered with white, adorned with fresh roses,
and set forth with cups and saucers. I was the one man invited, and I
felt like an actor called to play a new part in an old scene, a scene
vaguely, excitingly familiar. Could I possibly be remembering it, I
asked myself, or was my impression but the result of a life-long
debauch of Egyptian photographs? Anyhow, there was the impression, with
a thrill in it; and I felt that I ought to be handsomer, more romantic,
altogether more vivid, if I were to live up to the moving picture. It
seemed as if nothing would be too extraordinary to do, if I wanted to
match my surroundings. I thought, even if I burst into a passionate
Arab love-song and proposed to Monny across the table, it would be
quite the right note. But somehow I didn't feel inclined to propose. It
was enough to admire her over the rim of a coffee cup. In her white
tussore (I heard Biddy call it tussore) and drooping, garden-type of
hat, she was a different girl from the girl of the ship. She had been a
winter girl in white fur, then. Now she was a summer girl, and a
radiant vision, twice as pretty as before, especially in this Oriental
frame; still I was waiting to see myself fall in love with her, much in
the same way that Biddy was waiting. And there was that Oriental frame!
It belonged to my past, and perhaps Monny Gilder didn't belong even to
my future, so it was excusable if I thought of it more than of her.
It was hardly nine o'clock, but already the wonderful coloured cinema
show of Cairo daily life had begun to flash and flicker past the
terrace of Shepheard's, where East and West meet and mingle more
sensationally than anywhere in Egypt. Nobody save ourselves had dared
suggest breakfast; but travellers were pouring into the hotel, and
pouring out. Pretty women and plain women were sitting at the little
wicker tables to read letters, or discuss plans for the day with each
other or their dragomans. Officers in khaki came and talked to them
about golf and gymkhanas. Down on the pavement, close under the
balustrade, crowded young and old Egyptian men with dark faces and
wonderful eyes or no eyes at all, struggling to sell painted
post-cards, strings of blue-gray mummy beads; necklaces of cornelian and
great lumps of amber; fans, perfumes, sample sticks of smoking incense,
toy camels cleverly made of jute; fly whisks from the Sudan with
handles of beads and dangling shells; scarab rings and brooches; cheap,
gay jewellery, scarfs from Asiut, white, black, pale green and purple,
glittering like miniature cataracts of silver, as brown arms held them
up. Darting Arab urchins hawked tame ichneumons, or shouted newspapers
for sale--English, American, Greek, French, German, Italian, and
Turkish. Copper-tinted, classic-featured youths in white had golden
crowns of bananas round their turbans; withered patriarchs in blue
galabeahs offered oranges, or immense bunches of mixed flowers, fresh
and fragrant as the morning; or baskets of strawberries red and bright
as rubies. Dignified Arabs stalked by, bearing on nobly poised heads
pots of growing rose-bushes or arum lilies, or azaleas. Jet-black
giants, wound in rainbow-striped cottons, clanked brass saucers like
cymbals, advertising the sweet drinks in their glass jars, while memory
whispered in my ears the Arab name "sherbétly." Across the street,
clear silver-gold sunshine of winter in Egypt shone on precious stones,
on carved ivories, silver anklets, Persian rugs, and embroideries,
brilliant as hummingbirds' wings, all displayed in the windows of shops
where dark eyes looked out eagerly for buyers. Everything was for sale,
for sale to the strangers! The whole clamouring city seemed to consist
of one vast, concentrated desire on the part of brown people to sell
things to fair people. They shouted and wheedled and besought on the
sidewalks; and the roadway between was a wide river of colour and life.
Motor cars with Arab chauffeurs carried rich Turks to business, or to
an audience of State. Now and then a face of ivory glimmered through a
gauzy veil and eyes of ink and diamonds shot starry glances from
passing carriage windows. Erect English women drove high dog-carts.
Gordon Highlanders swung along in the kilt, more at home in Cairo then
in Edinburgh, the droning of their pipes as Oriental as the drone of a
räita, or the beat of tom-toms. A wedding party with a hidden bride in
a yellow chariot, met a funeral, and yashmaked faces peeped from
curtained windows, in one procession, to stare at the wailing, marching
men of the other, and to shrink back hastily from the sight of the
coffin. Tangled it would seem inextricably with streams of traffic,
surging both ways, moved the "ships of the desert," loaded with
emerald-green bersím; long, lilting necks, and calm, mysterious eyes of
camels high above the cloaked heads of striding Bedouins, heads of
defiant Arab prisoners, chained and handcuffed to each other; heads of
blue-eyed water buffaloes, and heads of trim white, tasselled donkeys.
None of us talked very much, as we sat at the breakfast table: the
novelty and wonder of the scene made the actors forget their words: and
if we had been able to talk, we could not have appreciated each other's
rhapsodies, over the shoutings of men who wanted us to buy their wares,
and harangues of dragomans who wished, as Monny said, to "drag" us.
These latter, especially, were persistent, and Bedr the One Eyed,
having been forbidden to come till ten o'clock, was not on the spot to
give protection. Our method at first was to appear oblivious, but
presently in my wickedest Arabic, I would have ordered the troop away
if Monny had not interfered.
"Don't!" she said, "they're part of the picture. Besides, they've more
right here than we have. It's their country, not ours. And they're so
interesting--most of them. That tall man over there, for instance, with
the green turban. He's the only one who hasn't opened his mouth. Just
to show him that virtue's its own reward, I'm going to engage him. Will
you call him to us, please, Lord Ernest?"
Sitting as I sat, I could not see the person indicated. "What do you
want him for, Miss Gilder?" I obeyed temptation, and asked.
"Why, to be a dragoman, of course," she explained. "That's what he's
for. I told you, I'd have a picturesque one for ornament. This
creature's a perfect specimen."
I stood up reluctantly, and looked down over the balustrade. "A man
with a green turban?" I repeated. "But that means he's a Hadji, who's
been to Mecca and back. I never heard of a dragoman--"
I stopped short in my argument. My eyes had found the man with the
He stood at some distance behind the pavement-merchants and
self-advertising dragomans who pressed against the railing. In his long
galabeah of Sudan silk, ashes of roses in colour, he was tall and
straight as a palm, gravely dignified with his folded arms and the
haughty remoteness of his expression. Dark and silent, half-disdainful,
half-amused, he was like a prince compared with his humbler brethren;
but there was another resemblance more relevant and intimate which cut
my sentence short.
"By Jove," I thought, "how like he is to Anthony Fenton!"
He was looking, not at me, but at Miss Gilder, quite respectfully yet
hypnotically, as if by way of an experiment he had been willing her to
find and single out the one motionless figure, the one person whose
tongue had not called attention to himself.
Yes, I thought again, he was an Arab copy of Anthony, but more as
Anthony had been years ago before his moustache grew, than as Anthony
had become in late years. Still, there were the aquiline features, the
long, rather sad eyes shaded with thick, straight lashes, the eyebrows
raised at the bridge of the thin nose, then sloping steeply down toward
the temples; the slight working of muscles in the cheeks; the
peculiarly charming mouth which could be irresistible in a smile, the
stern, contradictory chin marring by its prominence the otherwise
perfect oval of the face. I wondered if Anthony had as noble a throat
as this collarless galabeah left uncovered, reminding myself that I
could not at all recall Anthony's throat. Then, as the sombre eyes
turned to me, drawn perhaps by my stare, I was stunned, flabbergasted,
what you will, by realizing that Anthony himself was looking at me from
under the green turban.
The dark face was blankly expressionless. He might have been gazing
through my head. His eyes neither twinkled with fun nor sent a message
of warning; but somehow I knew that he saw me, that he had been
watching me for a long time. "You see the one I mean, don't you?" asked
Monny. "Well, that's the one I want. I'll take _him_."
She spoke as if she were selecting a horse at a horse show.
Anthony had brought this on himself, but I was not angry with Anthony.
I was angry with the girl for putting her finger into our pie.
"That's not a dragoman," I assured her. "If he were, he'd come and bawl
out his accomplishments, as the others do. He's a very different sort
"That's why I want him," said Monny. "And if he isn't a dragoman, he'll
jump at being one if I offer to pay him enough. He's an Egyptian,
anyhow, by his clothes, or a Bedouin or something--although he isn't as
dark as the rest of these men. I suppose he must know a little about
his own city and country."
"It doesn't follow he'd tell travellers about them for money," said I.
"He looks to me a man of good birth and distinction in old fashioned
dress. Why he's lingering on the pavement in front of this hotel I
can't explain, but I'm certain he isn't touting. Probably he's waiting
for a friend."
"He's the best looking Arab we've seen yet," remarked Mrs. East. "Like
my idea of an Egyptian gentleman."
"Pooh!" said Monny. "Just test him, Lord Ernest."
"Sorry, but I can't do it," I answered, with a firmness which ought to
have been tried on her long ago. "And I wouldn't discuss him in such a
loud tone of voice. He may understand English."
"We have to yell to hear ourselves speak over all this row," Biddy
apologized for her darling; but she need not have troubled herself.
Miss Gilder had been deaf to my implied reproach.
"I'm glad I'm an American girl," she said. "When I want things I want
them so dreadfully I just go for them, and surprise them so much that I
get them before they know where they are. Now I'm going for this
"He's not a drag--" I persisted, but she cut me short.
"I bet you my hat he will be one! What will you bet that he won't, Lord
"I'll bet you his green turban," said I.
"How can you get it?"
"As easily as you can get him," I retorted. "It's a safe bet."
Monny looked excited, but firm. Luckily, as she does it so often, it's
becoming to her to look firm. (I have noticed that it's not becoming to
most girls. It squares their jaws and makes their eyes snap.) But the
spoiled daughter of the dead Cannon King at her worst, merely looks
pathetically earnest and Minerva-like. This, I suppose, is one of the
"little ways" she has acquired, since she gave up kicking and screaming
people into submission. As Biddy says, the girl can be charming not
only when she wants to be, but quite often when she doesn't.
The man with the green turban was no longer engaged in hypnotizing. He
had retired within himself, and appeared oblivious to the outer world.
Yet nobody jostled the tall, straight figure which stood with folded
arms, lightly leaning against a tree. The colour of his turban was
sacred in the eyes of the crowd; and when Miss Gilder, leaning over the
terrace railing beckoned him, surprise rather than jealousy showed on
the faces of the unwanted dragomans. As for the wearer of the turban,
he did what I expected and wished him to do: paid not the slightest
attention to the gesture. Whatever the motive for his masquerade, it
was not to attract anything feminine.
I smiled sardonically. "That's a nice hat you've got on, Miss Gilder,"
"Do you collect girls' hats?" she asked sweetly. "But mine isn't
eligible yet for your collection. Let me see, what did you say he was?
Oh, a Hadji!" And she shrilled forth sweetly, her voice sounding young
and clear, "Hadji! Hadji! Effendi! Venez ici, s'il vous plait. Please
I could have been knocked flat by a blow of the smallest, cheapest
ostrich feather in the hands of any street-merchant. For he came.
Anthony came! Not to look meekly up from the pavement below the
railing, but to ascend the steps of the terrace, and advance with grave
dignity toward our table. Within a yard of us he stopped, giving to me,
not to Miss Gilder, the beautiful Arab salute, a touch on forehead and
"You devil!" I was saying to myself. "So you walk into this trap, do
you, and calmly trust me to get you out. Serve you right if I don't
move hand or foot." And I almost made up my mind that I wouldn't. But I
was interested. I wanted intensely to know what the dickens Anthony was
up to, and whether he would have been up to it if he'd known the sort
of young woman he had to deal with.
"It was I who called to you, not this gentleman," said Monny, when she
found that Green Turban did not look at her. "Do you speak French or
English a little?"
"A little of both. But I choose French when talking to Americans,"
replied Anthony Fenton, with astounding impertinence, in the preferred
language. "I do not know you, Madame. But I do know this gentleman."
Good heavens! What next? He acknowledged me! What was I to do now? What
did the impudent fellow want me to do? Evidently he was trying an
experiment. Anthony is great on experiments, and always has been. But
this was a bomb. I thought he wanted to see if I could catch it on the
fly, and drop it into water before it had time to explode.
"Why didn't you tell us, Lord Ernest?" asked Monny, with a flash in her
gray eyes. "I thought you hadn't been in Egypt since you were a child."
"I haven't, and I didn't recognize him at first," I answered, trying
for the coolness which Anthony dared to count upon.
"You remember me now?" he inquired politely.
"I--er--yes," I replied, also in French. "Your face is familiar, though
you've changed, I think, since--er--since you were in England. It must
have been there--yes, of course. You were on a diplomatic mission. But
"You may have known me as Ahmed Antoun," said the wretch, not dreaming
of that slip he had made.
Cleopatra, who has little French, nevertheless started, and fixed upon
the face under the turban a stare of feverish interest. Brigit and the
unobtrusive lady with the slanting eyes both showed such symptoms of
surprise as must too late have warned Fenton that he had missed his
footing, skating on thin ice.
"Antoun!" exclaimed Mrs. East. "Why, that's what you said you called
your friend Captain Fenton."
I glanced at Anthony. His profile had no more expression than that of
an Indian on an American penny, and, indeed, rather resembled it. If he
were blaming me for letting anything out, I had a right to blame him
for letting himself in. He was silent as well as expressionless. He
left it all to me--diplomat or duffer.
"'Antoun Effendi' was the nickname my friend Fenton got at school," I
explained to Cleopatra, "because it sounded a bit like his own name,
and because he had--er--because he had associations with Egypt. He was
proud of them and is still. But Antoun is a name often heard here. And
every man who isn't a Bey or a Prince, or a Sheikh, is an Effendi. I
quite remember you now," I hurried on, turning to Anthony once more.
"You are Hadji as well as Effendi."
"I have the right to call myself so, if I choose," he admitted. "I am
pleased to meet you again. I was waiting for a friend when you
beckoned. If you did not recognize my face at first, may I ask what it
was you wanted of me?"
There was no limit, then, to his audacity. He had not learned his
lesson yet, after all, it would seem.
Monny could not bear tamely to lose her hat, though she must have felt
her hatpins trembling in the balance. "I told you before," she
repeated, "that it was I who beckoned you." He looked at her, without
speaking; and somehow the green turban and the long straight gown, by
adding to his dignity, added also to his remote air of cold politeness.
How could she go on? Had she the cheek to go on? She had; but the cheek
was flushed with embarrassment.
"I--er--I am anxious for a guide, some one who knows Egypt well, and
several languages," she desperately blurted out, looking like a
half-frightened, half-defiant child. "I thought----"
"There are plenty of dragomans, Madame," Green Turban reminded her. "I
can recommend you several."
"I don't want a regular dragoman," she said. "And I'm not 'Madame.' I
am Miss Gilder."
"Indeed?" Chilling indifference in the tone. (Monny's hat was
practically mine. I thought I should rather value it.)
"Yes. But of course that can't matter to you."
"No. It cannot, Mademoiselle."
"What I want to say, is this. You're a Hadji, which means you've been
to Mecca; Lord Ernest Borrow's just told us. So you must be very
intelligent. Are you in business?"
"I am interested in excavations."
"Oh! And are you allowed to make them yourself?"
I glanced at him quickly, wondering if he meant that answer more for me
than for the girl. But his face told nothing.
"Would you be able to, if you were rich enough?"
"It is possible." "Well, I'd be willing to give you a big salary for
showing us about Cairo, and perhaps going up the Nile."
"You do not know who I am, Mademoiselle. Ask your friend Lord Ernest
Borrow. Perhaps he may remember something about my circumstances now he
has recalled my face."
I was honestly not sure whether this were further deviltry, or an
appeal for help. In any case, I thought it time for the scene to end.
"I told you," I said to Monny in English, "that he was a man of
importance, not at all the sort of person you could expect to engage
for a guide. You must see now that he's a gentleman. And a--a--an
Egyptian gentleman is just the same as any other."
"Surely not quite!" she answered in the same language, and I realized
my foolish mistake in using it, as if I meant her to understand that
Antoun Effendi knew it too little to catch our secrets.
"An Egyptian man can't have the same feelings as a European? Why, for
hundreds and hundreds of years they've been an enslaved race, like our
black people at home. We'd never think of calling even the fairest
quadroon man a gentleman, though he might be wonderfully good looking
and nice mannered."
Literally, I was frightened. Anthony Fenton is fiercely devoted to the
memory of the beautiful princess-mother, for love of whom his father's
career was ruined. _Her_ mother was a Sicilian woman, and her father
was half Greek, so there is little enough Egyptian blood, after all, in
the veins of General Fenton's son. He is proud of what there is--proud,
because of his mother's fatal charm, and the romance of her story (it
was on the eve of her wedding with a cousin of the Sultan that the
famous soldier Charles Fenton ran away with Princess Lalla and married
her in Sicily): but he is sensitive, too, because, great name as
Charles Fenton had made in Egypt, he was asked to resign his commission
on account of the escapade. Anthony, sent to England to a public
school, had fought bigger boys than himself, who, in a certain tone,
had sneeringly called him "Egyptian." I imagined now that through the
dark stain on his face I could see him turn pale with rage. He thought,
perhaps, that the American beauty was revenging herself for his
impertinence, and maybe he was right, but that did not excuse her.
"Be careful, Miss Gilder!" I warned the girl. "This man understands
English better than you think. He comes of a princely family and he's
got only to put out his hand to claim a fortune--"
"You seem to remember all about me now, Lord Ernest," broke in Fenton,
"Yes," I said. "It comes back to me. You must forgive Miss Gilder."
"There is nothing to forgive," he caught me up. "I am not a dragoman,
to be sure, but I'm enough of an Egyptian to have a price for anything
I do. I may put myself at this lady's service if she will pay my price,
though I'm not a servant and can't accept wages, even for the sake of
pursuing my excavations!"
He continued to speak in French, lest my companions' suspicions should
be further roused by the English of an Englishman; and Monny, pale
after her blush, answered in neat, schoolgirl French, with a pretty
American, accent. "What's the price you wish to name?" she inquired,
looking a little afraid of him and ashamed of herself, now that talk of
princes and fortunes was bandied about. "Of course," she went on, when
he did not answer at once, "if I'd known--all this, I shouldn't have
asked you to be a dragoman. At least, perhaps I shouldn't. Anyhow, I
shouldn't have made a bet--"
"A bet that I would have a 'price,' Mademoiselle? Then you may win your
bet, for I've just told you; I have a price. But I think it unlikely
you would be willing to pay it."
"Good heavens, is he going to try and marry the girl?" I asked myself.
It would be the last thing to expect of Anthony Fenton. However, he had
already done the last but one; the thing I had bet his green turban he
would not do. After all, he was a man, and a reckless man, as he had
proved on more than one wild occasion. He was in a strange mood,
capable of anything; and the Gilded Rose could never have been prettier
in her life than at this minute. She had made him furious, and I had
imagined that his acceptance of her overtures was the beginning of some
scheme of punishment. Now I was almost sure I had been right, yet I
could not guess what he would be at. Neither could Monny. But here was
the dangerously picturesque Arab who "must be a prince or something,"
as Cleopatra had expressed it. And he was even more dangerous than
"You--you said you wouldn't take wages," she stammered (I enjoyed
hearing the self-willed young person stammer): "so I can't understand
what you mean. But even though you are all those things Lord Ernest
says you are, your price can't be so terribly high as to be beyond my
power to pay--if I choose to pay."
"First, Mademoiselle, I must decide whether I choose to be paid."
"Oh!" Monny exclaimed, taken aback. "I thought it was a question of
"Not only that. 'I _may_ put myself at the lady's service--for a
price,' was what I said. I didn't say, 'I will.' I shall not be able to
tell you until to-night." The patronizing tone in which Anthony spoke
this sentence was worth to me everything I had gone through in the last
"But--I want to settle things this morning or--not at all," said Monny,
reverting to type: that of the spoiled child.
"I am sorry," replied the man of the green turban. "In that case, it
must be not at all." And he made as if to go.
The Gilded Girl could not bear this. I and the others would see that
she was fallible; that there were things she wanted which she could not
get. "Why can't you tell me now what your price is?" she persisted.
"Because, Mademoiselle, I may not need to tell you ever. It depends
partly on another than myself." He threw a quick glance at me. "I
expect to meet that other at Abdullahi's Café in an hour from now at
latest. Everything will depend on the interview. In any case, I will
let you know to-night what I can do."
"I may not be in," said Monny. "But if I'm out, you can leave a note."
"If I must refuse to serve you, yes, I can leave a note. If I am to
accept, I must see you in person. Should you be out, I'll take it for
granted that you have changed your mind and do not want"--he smiled
faintly for the first time--"so expensive a guide."
Monny hesitated. "I am not stingy. I'll stay at home this evening," she
volunteered at last.
"Bravo Petruchio!" I said under my breath. But if Biddy's plot were to
succeed, it was _my_ business to play the part of Petruchio to this
Katherine. Let the masquerading prince find a Desdemona who would suit
THE CAFÉ OF ABDULLAH
"Well--you got away from them all right?" began the man with the green
turban when, according to his roundabout instructions, I met him an
hour later at the café he had named, one of the principal resorts of
Cairo, where Europeans can consort with natives without attracting
"The real dragoman came and took them off my hands--at least the realer
one than you--a dreadful creature with a game eye, who murdered your
messenger last night, and gave me your letter and induced the ladies to
engage him on the strength of it. No wonder they want a 'looker' to
take the taste of him out of their mouths. And you certainly are a
'looker' in that get-up. Now kindly tell me all about it, and
"That's what I'm here for," said Anthony, running a match-box to earth
in some mysterious Arab pocket. "But hold on, Duffer. Something you
said just then may be important. Is it true that my messenger didn't
give you the letter?"
"If you'd hung about Shepheard's Hotel ten minutes longer, you'd have
seen the fellow who did give it. Bedr el Gemály he calls himself
--Armenian Mussulman, a sickening combination, and an awful brute to look
at--said your messenger was taken suddenly ill; pretends to be a
"What is he like?"
"Rather like a partially decayed but decently dressed goat."
"Don't rot. This may be serious."
I described Bedr el Gemály as best I could, feature by feature. When I
had polished them off, Anthony shook his green-turbaned head. "No
portrait of him in my rogues' gallery. Just now, I'm sensitive about
spies--over-sensitive rather. Of course, you've spotted my game?"
"I confess I was conceited enough to think you'd given yourself all
this trouble with the costumier in order to take a rise out of me. But
when you speak of spies, I begin to put two and two together--your
business in Cairo--the powers that be, keeping you from me last night,
etc. I suppose it's an official job, this fancy dress affair?"
"Yes. In my own capacity, I'm not in Cairo. I turned up day before
yesterday, jolly glad to get back from Adrianople--though it was good
fun there, I can tell you, for a while; and I looked forward to
wallowing no end in the alleged delights of civilization. I reported
myself, and all seemed well. I took a room at Shepheard's where you and
I had arranged to meet, and when I'd scrubbed, I strolled over to the
Turf Club to see what the gay world would have to say to a fellow in
"Only silly asses swallowed that newspaper spoof! Every one in London
who knows anything about you was betting his boots that the story had
been spread on purpose to save our face with Turkey." I couldn't resist
interrupting his narrative to this extent. But Anthony merely smiled,
and watched a long-lived smokering settle like a halo over the head of
an Arab at the nearest table. He was not giving away official secrets,
but I was sure and always had been sure that he was a martyr, not a
rebel, in the matter of the Balkan incident, just closed. What the
public were led to suppose was this: that Captain Fenton had asked for
two months' leave from regimental duty at Khartum, in order to spend
the time with a relative who was seriously ill in Constantinople. That
instead of remaining at his relative's bedside, he had used his leave
for a dash to the Balkans. That this indiscretion might have been kept
a secret had he not capped it with another: a flight with a Greek
officer in an army aeroplane which had ended by crashing down in the
midst of a Turkish encampment.
What I and friends who knew him best supposed, was that the "leave" had
been a pretext--that Fenton had been sent on a secret mission of some
sort--and that he was bound to take the blame if anything went wrong.
Aeroplanes have the habits of other fierce, untamed animals: they won't
always obey their trainers. Thus Anthony and his plan had both been
upset. (Or had it really been premeditated that he should fall into
that camp?) The remainder of his "leave" was cancelled, in punishment,
and he had been "recalled" to Egypt, to be scolded in Cairo before
proceeding to Khartum.
"Queer how many silly asses one knows!" Anthony said. "Still,
considering what a mess I seem to have made of things, fellows were
jolly kind, at the Turf Club. Nobody cut me, and only a few let me
alone. Maybe there'd have been still fewer if there hadn't been a hero
present who claimed attention: an American chap, Jack Dennis, who knows
Miss Gilder and was telling the good news that she was on her way to
Egypt. He called her the Gilded Rose and said it was going to be a good