Part 1 out of 4
* * * * *
_BY VICTORIA CROSS_
LIFE'S SHOP WINDOW
SIX CHAPTERS OF A MAN'S LIFE
THE WOMAN WHO DIDN'T
A GIRL OF THE KLONDIKE
THE RELIGION OF EVELYN HASTINGS
LIFE OF MY HEART
* * * * *
H.M.G. AND E.F.C.
AND OUR MEMORIES OF THE EAST.
Listless and despondent, feeling that he hated everything in life,
Hamilton walked slowly down the street. The air was heavy, and the
sun beat down furiously on the yellow cotton awnings stretched over
his head. Clouds of dust rose in the roadway as the white bullocks
shuffled along, drawing their creaking wooden carts, and swarms of
flies buzzed noisily in the yellow, dusty sunshine. Hamilton went
on aimlessly; he was hot, he was tired, his eyes and head ached, he
was thirsty; but all these disagreeable sensations were nothing
beside the intense mental nausea that filled him, a nausea of life.
It rose up in and pervaded him, uncontrollable as a physical
malady. In vain he called upon his philosophy; he had practised it
so long that it was worn out. Like an old mantle from the
shoulders, it fell from him in rags, and he was glad. He felt he
hated his philosophy only less than he hated life--hated, yet
desired as the man hates a mistress he covets, and has never yet
possessed. "Never had anything, never done anything, never felt
anything decent yet," he mused.
He was an exceptionally handsome and attractive individual, and
though in reality forty years of age, he had the figure, the look,
and air of twenty-eight. Masses of black hair, without a white
thread, waved above a beautifully-cut and modelled face, of which
the clear bronze skin, with its warm colour in the cheeks, was not
the least striking feature. He was about six feet or a little over
in height, and had a wonderfully lithe, well-knit figure, and a
carriage full of grace and dignity. A bright, charming smile that
came easily to his face, and an air of absolute unconsciousness of
his own good looks, completed the armoury of weapons Venus had
endowed him with for breaking hearts. But Hamilton neglected his
vocation: he broke none. He got up early, and slaved away at his
duties for the Indian Civil Government in his office all day, and
went to bed dead tired at night, with nothing but a dreary
consciousness of duty done and more duty waiting for him the
following day, as a sleeping companion.
Hamilton's life had been ruined by an early and an unsuccessful
marriage. At twenty, when full of the early, divine fires of life,
he had married a girl of his own age and rank, dazzled by the
beauty she then, in his eyes, possessed, and in that amazing
blindness to character that make women view men with wondering
contempt. His blindness, however, ended with the ceremony. On his
wedding-night the woman, who, it must be admitted, had acted her
part of loving submissiveness, of gentle devotion, admirably,
mocked at him and his genuine, ardent passion.
How well he had always remembered her words to him as they stood
face to face in the chilly whiteness of an English bridal chamber
in midwinter! "It's no use, dear, I don't want any of this sort of
thing. It seems to me coarse and stupid, and I don't want the
bother of a dozen babies. I married because I wanted the position
of a married woman, and a nice presentable man to go about with in
society. Besides, things were not satisfactory at home, and I
wanted a man to keep me, and all that. But I don't see why you
should get into such a state of mind about it. I will keep house,
and be perfectly good and amiable, and we can go about together, of
course; only I want to keep my own room."
And how well he remembered her as she stood there, shattering his
life with her cold, light words--a tall, slim girl, in her white
dinner dress! She had been very fair then, with a quantity of soft
flaxen hair, which shortly after she had taken to dyeing--a thing
he had always hated. She had a small, heart-shaped face, so light
in colour as to suggest anaemia, with a high, thin nose, of which
the nostrils were excessively pinched together, a short upper lip,
and a thick, quite colourless mouth, small when closed, when she
laughed opening wide far back to her throat, showing, as it seemed,
an infinite quantity of long, narrow, white, wolf-like teeth.
How hideous she had suddenly appeared to him in those moments, seen
through the dark waves of passion she rolled back upon him! In the
hot, rosy glow she had deliberately conjured up before his eyes of
love and love returned he had thought her beautiful. Now, as she
took the veil from her mean, base mind, it fell also from her
beauty, and he saw her ugly, as she really was, body and soul.
Stunned and amazed, loathing his own folly, his own blindness,
condemning these more than he did her cruelty, Hamilton had
listened in silence while she revealed herself. When the first
shock was over, he had set himself to talk and reason with her.
Naturally intensely kind and sympathetic, it was easy for him to
see another's view, to put himself in another's place. He blamed
himself at once, more than her, for the position he now found
himself in. And patiently he tried to understand it, to find the
clue, if possible, to remedy it. He reasoned long and gently with
her, but she, knowing well the generous nature she had to deal
with, yielded not an inch. Hamilton was not the man to use force or
violence. The passions of the body, divested of their soul, were
nothing to him. On that night she struck down within him all desire
for or interest in her. He left her at last, and withdrew to
another room, where he sat through the remaining hours of the
night, looking into the face of his future.
Shortly after, he had left for India, the corpse of dead passion
within his breast. He made a confident of no one, told no one of
his secret burden, remitted half his pay regularly to his wife with
that obedience to custom and duty as the world sees it, with that
quiet dutifulness that is so astounding to the onlooker, but
characteristic of so many Englishmen, and threw himself into his
work, avoiding women and personal relations with them.
Such a life as this invariably calls down the anger of Venus, and
Hamilton had worn out by now the patience of the goddess.
The tragedy of Euripides' Hippolytus is called a myth, but that
same tragedy is played out over and over again, year by year, in
all time, and is as true now as it was then. The slighted goddess
takes her revenge at last. As he walked on, the sound of some
tom-toms dulled by distance came to his ears. He hesitated at a
crossing where a side alley led down towards the bazaar, then
without thought or intention walked down the turning, the music
growing louder as he advanced.
It came from a house some way lower down, before the open door of
which hung a large white sheet with scarlet letters on it. Hamilton
glanced up and read on it, "Dancing girls from the Deccan.
Admission, six annas. Walk in." He stared dully at it till the red
letters danced in the fierce, torrid sunlight, and the flies,
finding him standing motionless, came thickly round his face. A
puff of hot wind blew down the street, bringing the dust: it lifted
a corner of the sheet and turned it back from the doorway. Within
looked cool and dark. The entry was a square of darkness. He was
tired of the sun, the heat, the noise, the dust and the flies. With
no thought other than seeking for shelter, he stepped behind the
sheet and was in the darkness; a turnstile barred his way: on the
top of it he laid down his six annas, his eyes too full of the
yellow glare of the outside to see whom he paid: he felt the
turnstile yield, and stumbled on in the obscurity. A hand pushed
him between two curtains. Then he found himself in a low square
room, and could see about him again by the subdued light of oil
lamps fixed against the wall. At one end was the small stage, its
scarlet curtain now down; in front a row of tin lamps, primitive
footlights, and the rest of the room was filled with rows of empty
chairs. Mechanically and without interest, Hamilton went forward
and seated himself in the first of these rows. The tom-toms had
ceased: there was quiet, an interval of rest presumably for the
dancers. It was far cooler than outside, and Hamilton breathed a
sigh of relief as he sank into his seat. The dimness of the light,
the quiet, the coolness all pleased him: he had not known till he
sat down how tired he was. He might have sat there a quarter of an
hour, his mind in that state of hopeless blank that supervenes on
overmuch unsatisfactory thinking, when suddenly the tom-toms
started up again with a terrific rattle, and the scarlet curtain
was somewhat spasmodically jerked up, displaying a semicircle of
girls seated on European chairs facing the tin lamps. Two of the
seven were African girls, with the woolly hair and jet black skin
of their race; they were seated one at each end of the semicircle,
dressed in short scarlet skirts, standing out from their waist in
English ballet-girl fashion, the upper part of their bodies bare,
except for the masses of coloured glass necklaces covering their
breast from throat to waist. The next pair of girls seemed to
represent Spanish dancers, and were in ankle-long black and yellow
dresses, little yellow caps with bells depending from them sat in
amongst their masses of black hair, and they held languidly to
their sides their tambourines and castenets. Next on the chairs sat
two strictly Eastern dancers in transparent pale green gauzy
clothing held into waist and each ankle by jeweled bands. Their
pale ivory bodies shone through the filmy green muslin as the moon
shines clearly in green water, and the jewels blazed like stars
with red and blue fires at each movement of their limbs. Their
heads were crowned simply with white clematis, and the glory of
their straight-featured Circassian faces, together with the
unrivalled contours of softly moulded throat and breast and perfect
limbs, veiled only so much as a light mist may veil, would have
taken the breath away of the most inveterate frequenter of the
Alhambra and Empire in dull old England. Hamilton drew in his
breath with a little start as he first saw the semicircle, but it
was not on the Circassians that his eyes were fixed, but on the
very centre figure of that beautiful half-moon. Set in the centre,
she seemed to be considered the pearl amongst them, as indeed she
was. The mist that enveloped her was not pale green as the veils of
the other two, but white, and the beautiful perfect form that it
enclosed was of a warmer, brighter tint than theirs.
The white films of the drapery fell from the base of her throat,
leaving her arms quite bare, but softly clinging to breast and
flanks, till a gold band resting on her hips confined it closely,
and depressed in the centre, was fastened by a single enormous
ruby, the one spot of blood-red colour upon her. Beneath the
sloping belt of gold fell her loose Turkish trousers of gleaming
white, transparent tissue, clasped at the ankles by bands of gold.
On her feet were little Turkish slippers, on her brow--nothing, but
the crown of her radiant youth and beauty. Hamilton, gazing at it
across the footlights, thought he had never seen, either pictured
or in the flesh, a face so beautiful, so full of the beauty, the
goodness, the power and wonder of life.
The sight thrilled him. Like the power of electricity, its power
began to run along his veins, heating them, stirring them, calling
upon nerve and muscle and sense to wake up. He looked, and life
itself seemed to stream into him through his eyes. The girl's face
was a well-rounded oval, supported on the round, perfect column of
her throat; the eyes seemed pools of blackness that had caught all
the splendour and the radiance of a thousand Eastern nights. The
fires of many stars, the whole brilliance of the purple nights of
Asia were mirrored in them. Above them rose the dark, arching span
of the eyebrows on the soft warm-tinted forehead, cut in one line
of severest beauty with the delicate nose. Beneath, the curling
lips were like the flowers of the pomegranate, a living, vivid
scarlet, and the rounded chin had the contour and bloom of the
She smiled faintly as she met the fixed gaze of Hamilton's eyes
across the footlights--such an innocent, merry little smile it
seemed, not the mechanical contortions one buys with pieces of
silver. Hamilton's blood seemed to catch light at it and flame all
over his body. He sat upright in his seat: gone were his fatigue,
his thirst, his eye-ache. His frame felt no more discomfort: his
whole soul rushed to his eyes, and sat there watching. In some men
their physical constitution is so closely knitted to the mental,
that the slightest shock to either instantly vibrates through the
other and works its effect equally on both. Hamilton was of this
order, and his body responded, instantly now, to the joy and
interest born suddenly in his mind.
A moment after the curtain was rolled up, a huge negro, dressed in
a fancy dress of scarlet, and with a high cap of the same colour on
his head, came on from the side. In his hand he carried a small
dog-whip, and as he cracked it all the girls stood up. Hamilton
sickened as he looked at him: an indefinable feeling of horror came
over him as this man stalked about the stage. He pointed with his
whip to the two African girls at the end of the semicircle, and
they came forward, while the rest sat down. A horrid uneasy feeling
of discomfort grew up in Hamilton, similar to that which a lover of
animals feels, when called upon to witness performing dogs, and all
the fear and anxiety pent up in their fast-beating little hearts is
communicated to himself. He watched the girls' faces keenly as the
negro went round and placed himself behind the middle chair of the
semicircle, while the two Africans danced. Hamilton hardly noticed
their dance, a curious barbaric performance that would have been
alarming to the British matron, but was neither new nor interesting
to Hamilton. He kept his eyes fixed on the white-clothed girl in
the centre, and the sinister figure behind her chair. She seemed
calm and indifferent, and when the negro put his hand on her
shoulder looked up and listened to his words without fear or
repulsion. Hamilton, keenly alive, with every sense alert, sat in
his chair, a prey to the new and delightful feeling, not known for
years, of interest.
Yes, he was interested, and the energetic sense of loathing for
the negro proved it. The music, loud and strident--an ordinary
Italian piano-organ having been introduced amongst the Oriental
instruments--banged on, and then abruptly came to a stop when the
negro cracked his whip. The two African women resumed their chairs,
there was some applause, and a good many small coins fell on the
stage from the hands of the audience. The second pair of girls
rose, came forward and commenced to dance, the organ playing some
appropriate Spanish airs. After these, the two Indian girls who
gave the usual _dance de ventre_ to a lively Italian air on the
organ. Then, at last, _she_ rose from her chair and approached the
footlights. The organ ceased playing, only the Indian music
continued: wild sensual music, imitating at intervals the cries of
To this accompaniment the girl danced.
Had any British matrons been present we must hope they would have
walked out, yet, to the eye of the artist, there was nothing coarse
or offending, simply a most beautiful harmony of motion. The girl's
beauty, her grace and youth, and the slight lissomness of all her
body lent to the dance a poetry, a refinement it would not have
possessed with another exponent.
Moreover, though there was a certain ardour in her looks and
gestures, in the way she yielded her limbs and body to the
influence of the music, yet there was also a gay innocence, a
bright naive irresponsibility in it that contrasted strongly with
the sinister intention underlying all the movements of the other
two Indian dancers. At the end of the dance Hamilton took a rupee
from his pocket and threw it across the tin lamps towards her feet.
She picked it up smiling, though she left the other coins which
fell on the stage untouched, and went back to her chair.
After her dance, the great negro came forward and did a turn of his
own. Hamilton looked away. What was this man to the little circle?
he wondered. He could not keep his mind off that one query? Were
they his slaves? willing or unwilling? did they constitute his
harem? or were they paid, independent workers? His mind was made up
to get speech with this one girl, at least, that evening. This
delightful feeling of interest, this pleasure, even this keen
disgust, all were so welcome to him in the dreary mental state of
indifference that had become his habit, that he welcomed them
eagerly, and could not let them go. Beyond this there was rising
within him, suddenly and overwhelmingly, the force of Life,
indignant at the long repression it had been subjected to. Man may
be a civilized being, accustomed to the artificial restraints and
laws he has laid upon himself, but there remains within him still
that primitive nature that knows nothing, and never will learn
anything of those laws, and which leaps up suddenly after years of
its prison-life in overpowering revolt, and says, "Joy is my
birthright. I will have it!"
This moment is the crisis of most lives. It was with Hamilton now,
and it seemed suddenly to him that twenty years of fidelity to an
unloved, unloving woman was enough. The debt contracted at the
altar twenty years before had been paid off. The promise, given
under a misunderstanding to one who had wilfully deceived him, was
wiped out. It was a marvel to him in those moments how it had held
him so long.
Hamilton had one of those keen, brilliant minds that make their
decisions quickly, and rarely regret them. He took his resolution
now. That prisoner in revolt within him should be free; he would
strike off the fetters he had worn too long and vainly. He was
before the open book of Life, at that page where he had stood so
long. With a firm decisive hand he would take the new page, and
turn it over. That last page, on which his wife's name was written
large, was completely done with, closed.
The old joyous spirit, the keen eagerness for love and joy and
life, the Pagan's gay rejoicing in it, that had been such a marked
feature of his disposition before his marriage, came back to him,
rushed through him, refilled him.
His marriage, with its disillusionment, had crushed it out of him
for a time, and, with that same decisiveness that marked him now,
he had turned over the pages of youthful dreams and joys and loves,
and opened the next page of work, of strenuous endeavour, of a
hard, rigid observance of fidelity to the vows he had taken. And
for a time work and its rewards, effort and its returns, a hard,
practical life in the world amongst men, had held him. That now
was no longer to be all to him.
His life, and such joy as it might hold for him, was to be his own
again. The joy of the decisions filled him, elated him. He felt as
if his mind had sudden wings, and could lift him with it to the
Such a decision, when it comes, seems to oneself, as it seemed to
Hamilton now, a sudden thing. It has the force and shock of a
revelation, but it is not really sudden. The great rebellion nearly
all natures--certainly some, and these usually the greatest and
best--feel at the absence of joy in their lives had been gradually
growing within him, gathering a little strength each day. It is
only the climax of such feelings that is sudden--the awakening of
the mind to their presence. The growth has been going on day by
day, week by week, unmeasured, unreckoned with.
Immediately the curtain fell, Hamilton left his seat and went
up to a door, reached by a few steps, on the level of the
footlights, and at the left side of them. No one hindered him.
The rest of the audience were going out. He pushed the door,
which yielded readily, and he passed through. A narrow,
white-washed, lath-and-plaster passage opened before him, at the
end of which he saw a tin lamp burning against the wall and heard
The passage led into a three-cornered room, where he found some of
the dancers and an old woman who was huddled up on a straw mat in
the corner. The negro was not there. The girls stood about idly;
some were changing their clothes. They did not seem to heed his
presence, except the one he was seeking, who came straight towards
him. As she moved across the dirty, littered room, her limbs under
their transparent covering moved, and her head was carried with the
air of an empress. "Will the Sahib come with me?" she said in a
low, soft tone. She raised her eyes to his face. They were wide,
enquiring, like the deer's brought face to face with the hunter in
the green thickets.
The other girls glanced towards him, and some smiles were
exchanged, but no one approached him. They seemed to understand he
was there only for the star of the troupe. Hamilton looked down
into those glorious midnight eyes fixed upon him, and a faint
colour came into his cheek.
"I will come wherever you lead," he answered in Hindustani. These
surroundings were horrible, but the shade of them did not seem to
dim her charm.
The scent in the air was disagreeable. Tawdry spangles and false
jewels lay about on the tumble-down settees. From behind little
doors that opened from the walls round came the sound of men's
"Let the Sahib come this way, then," she answered, and turned
towards one of the small doors in the wall. This took them into
another tiny, musty-smelling passage that wound about like the run
of a rabbit warren, only wide enough for one to pass along at a
time, and the strips of lath were so low overhead that Hamilton
bent his neck involuntarily to avoid them.
At a door in the side of this she stopped and pushed it open; the
little run way wound on beyond in the darkness.
Hamilton followed her into the sloping-roofed, lath-and-plaster
pent-house that had been run up between the back of the stage and
the wall of the building. Native lamps were hooked into the wall,
and their light showed the garish ugliness of it all--the hastily
whitewashed walls, the scraps of ragged, dirty, scarlet cloth hung
here and there over a bulge or stain in the plaster: the boarded
floor, uneven and cracked: the bed against the wall, not too clean
looking, its dingy curtains not quite concealing the dingier
pillows; the broken chair on which a basin stood, placed on two
grey-looking towels; another chair with the back rails knocked out
leaning against the wall.
He threw his gaze round it in a moment's rapid survey, then he
pressed to the rickety, uneven door and shot the bolt.
The girl stood in the middle of the room, an exquisitely lovely
figure. She regarded him with wide, innocent eyes. Hamilton felt
all the blood alight in his veins; it seemed to him he could hear
his pulses beating. Never in his life before had joy and passion
met within him to stir him as they did now, but in natures where
there is a strong, deep strain of intellectuality the body never
quite conquers the mind, the light of the intellect never quite
goes down, however strong the sea, however high the waves of
animal passion on which it rides; and now Hamilton felt the great
appeal to his brain as well as to his senses that the girl's beauty
He went up to her. She looked at him with an intense admiration,
almost worship in her eyes. A man at such moments looks, as Nature
intended he should, his very best, and Hamilton's face, of a noble
and splendid type, lighted now by the keenest animation, held her
"Tell me," he said in a low tone, for footsteps passed on the
creaking boards, and gibbering voices and laughter could be heard
outside, "tell me, what is that man to you? Do you belong to him,
all of you?"
"That...? He is not a man, he is a ... nothing," replied the girl,
looking up with calm, glorious eyes. "He can do no harm ... nor
Hamilton drew a quick breath.
"You dance like this every evening, and then choose someone in the
audience in this way?" he questioned, slipping his hand round her
neck and looking down at her, a half-amused sadness coming into his
The girl shook her head with a quick negation.
"No, I have only been here a few days--a week, I think. Did you
notice that old woman as we came through here? I belong to her; she
taught me to dance. She brought me here, and I dance for the
Nothing, but I have never taken any one like this before. The other
girls do, every night, but each night the Nothing said to me, 'No
one here to-night, good enough. Wait till an English Sahib comes.'"
Hamilton listened with a paling cheek; his breath came and went
faintly; he hardly seemed to draw it; he put his next question very
gently, watching her open brow and proud, fearless eyes.
"Do you know nothing of men at all, then?"
"Nothing, Sahib, nothing," she answered, falling on her knees
suddenly at his feet, and raising her hands towards him. "This will
be my bridal night with the Sahib. The Nothing told me to please
you, to do all you told me. What shall I do? how shall I please
Hamilton looked down upon her: his brain seemed whirling; the
pulses along his veins beat heavily; new worlds, new vistas of life
seemed opening before him as he looked at her, so beautiful in her
first youth, in her unclouded innocence, full, it is true, of
Oriental passion, with a certain Oriental absence of shame, but
untouched, able to be his, and his only.
Before he could speak again, or collect his thoughts that the
girl's words had scattered, her soft voice went on:
"Surely the Sahib is a god, not a man. I have seen the men across
the footlights: there were none like the Sahib. I said to my
mother, 'I do not like men, I do not want them; what shall I do?'
And my mother said, 'There is no hurry, my child; we will wait till
a rich Sahib comes.' But you are not a man, you must be a god, you
are so beautiful; and I am the slave of the Sahib, for ever and
She looked up at him, great lights seemed to have been lighted in
the midnight pools of her eyes, the curved lips parted a little,
showing the perfect, even teeth; the rounded, warm-hued cheeks
glowed; the lids of her eyes lifted as those of a person looking
out into a new world.
Hamilton stood looking at her, and two great seas of conflicting
emotions swept into his brain, and under their tumult he remained
irresolute. Mere instincts and nature, the common impulse of the
male to take his pleasure whenever offered, prompted him to draw
her to his breast and let her learn the great joy of life in his
arms; but some higher feeling held him back: the knowledge that the
first way in which a woman learns these things colours her whole
after estimation of them, restrained him.
Here he saw, suddenly, there was new ground for Love to build
himself a habitation upon. Should it be but a rude shanty, loosely
constructed of Desire? Was it not rather such a fair and lovely
site that it was worthy a perfect temple, built and finished with
This flower of wonderful bloom he had found by chance in such a
poor, rough garden, was it not better to carry it gently to some
sheltered spot, to transplant and keep it for his own, rather than
just tear at it with a careless touch in passing by?
Hamilton had the brain of the artist and the poet; things touched
him less by their reality than by that strange halo imagination
throws round them.
The sound of some shuffling steps in the passage outside, a lurch
as of some drunken and unsteady figure, some whispered words, and
then a burst of ribald laughter just outside the door, decided him.
No: her wedding night should not be here. Keen in his sympathy with
women, Hamilton knew how often that night recurs to a woman's
thoughts, and should its memories always bring back to her this
loathsome shed, these hideous sounds?
A repulsion so great filled him that it swept back his desire for
the moment. A great eagerness to get her away unharmed, unsoiled
from such a place, filled him. Already she seemed to be part of
himself, to be a possession he must guard. His heart was empty and
hungry: by means of her beauty and this strange unexpected
innocence she had so suddenly revealed to him, she had leapt into
it, made it her own. He sat down on the mean, dingy bed, and drew
her warm, supple body into his arms: she stood within their circle
submissively, quivering with pleasure. His touch was very gentle
and reverent, for he was a man who knew the value of essentials;
his brain was keen enough to go down to them and judge of them,
undeterred and unhindered and undeceived by externals, by
fictitious emblems. He saw here that he was in the presence of a
tender, youthful, unformed mind of complete innocence, and the
abhorrent surroundings affected that essential not at all.
A married woman in his own rank, with her dozen lovers and her
knowledge of evil, high in the favour of the world, could never
have had from him the same reverence that he gave to this
dancing-girl of the Deccan, who in the world's eyes was but a
creature put under his feet for him to trample on.
"Would you like to leave all these people and come to live only
with me? dance only for me?" he said softly, looking into those
great wondering eyes fixed in awe upon his face.
"Would you like to have a house to yourself, and a garden full of
flowers, and stay there with me alone?"
The girl clasped her hands joyously, smile after smile rippled
over the brilliant face.
"Oh, Sahib, it would be paradise! If I can stay with the Sahib, I
shall be happy anywhere. I am the slave of the Sahib. If he but use
me as the mat before his door to walk upon, I shall be content."
Hamilton shivered. He drew her a little closer. "Hush! I do not
like to hear you say those things. You shall come to me and sleep
in my arms, but not to-night. Love is a very great thing: it will
be a great thing with us, and it must not be thought of lightly, do
you see? Will you stay here and think of me only till I come again?
Think of your bridal night with me, dream of me till I come back
"The Sahib's will is my law; but even if I wished, I could think of
nothing else but him till I see him again," she responded, her eyes
fixed upon his face. Hamilton gazed upon her. She made such a
lovely picture standing there: he thought he had never seen beauty
so perfect, so exquisitely fresh. The soft transparent tunic did
not conceal it, only lightly veiled its bloom. Her breasts, rounded
and firm, stood out as a statue's. They seemed to express the
vigour of her buoyant youth: they had never known artificial
support, and needed none. The waist was naturally slight, the hips
also, the straight supple limbs and round arms were the most
richly-modelled parts, perhaps, of the whole perfect form.
Hamilton slipped his arm down to her yielding waist and drew her
closer. Then he bent his head and kissed the wonderfully-carved and
glowing mouth. With a little cry of joy the girl threw both arms
about his neck and kissed him back with a wealth of fervour in her
lips, pressing her soft bosom against his in all the natural,
unrestrained ardour of a first and new-found love.
"Sahib, Sahib! do not leave me long. Come and take me away soon! I
am all yours! No other shall see me till you come again."
Hamilton was satisfied. He raised his head, his whole ardent nature
"Dear little girl, let us go then to the old woman, and perhaps I
can pay her enough to make her take you away from here, and keep
you safe till I can come for you."
"Come, Sahib, come!" she answered, joyfully drawing out of his
arms and running across the room; she unbolted the door and pulled
it open, nearly causing the old woman who was crouched just
outside, and apparently leaning against it, to roll into the room.
"Saidie, Saidie! you have no respect for me," she grumbled, getting
on her feet with some difficulty. Hamilton came up, and helped to
balance her as she stood.
"Your Saidie pleases me very much," he said, drawing out a
pocket-book. "I want to take her away from here altogether. How
much do you ask for her?"
The old woman's beady-black eyes twinkled and gleamed, and fixed on
"It is not possible, Sahib," she said in a grumbling tone, "for me
to part with her and her services. A girl like that with her
beauty, her dancing, her singing! She will earn gold every night.
Let the Sahib come here each evening if he will and take his turn
with the rest. For a girl like that to go to one man alone is waste
The colour mounted to Hamilton's face. His brows contracted.
"What I have to say is this," he answered sternly and briefly, "I
want this girl, and if you take her with you to some place of
safety for to-night, I will come to-morrow or the next day and give
you 2000 rupees for her--no more and no less. I have spoken."
"Two thousand rupees!" replied shrilly the old woman, "for Saidie,
the star of the dancers, and not yet fifteen! No, Sahib, no! a
Parsee will give more than that for a half hour with her."
Hamilton caught the old creature by her skinny arm:
"You waste your words talking to me," he said. "I am a police
magistrate, and I can have your whole place here closed, and all of
you put in prison, if I choose. The girl is willing to come with
me, and I will take her and pay you well for her. You have her
ready for me to-morrow night, or you go to prison--which you
please." The old woman shivered at the word magistrate, and fell
trembling on her knees.
"Let the Sahib have mercy! That great black brute will kill me if
the police come here. I take Saidie to my house, the Sahib comes
there when he will. He pays, he has her. It is all finished."
She spread out her thin black hands in a shaking gesture of
finality, and then fell forward and kissed Hamilton's boots after
the complimentary but embarrassing manner of natives. Hamilton drew
back a little. He was angered that Saidie should be witness,
auditor of all this. She stood silent, passive, gazing at the hot,
angry colour mounting to his face. He bent forward and dragged the
old woman up by her arms.
"Take this for yourself now," he said, putting a hundred-rupee note
into her hand, "and make no more difficulty. Take every care of
Saidie, and you will have your two thousand rupees very shortly."
The old woman seized the note, and began to mumble blessings on
Hamilton, which he cut short: "Give me the name of your street and
the house where you live, that I may find you easily," he said, and
noted down the directions she gave him. Then he turned to the girl
and put his arm round her neck.
"Dear Saidie! I trust to you. Remember it is your innocence, your
virtue, I love more than your beauty. Do not dance nor let anyone
see you till I come again."
He kissed her on the lips as she promised him. The soft, warm form
thrilled against him as their lips met. Then with a mental wrench
he turned and went out of the room and quickly down the dark
At the end his way was barred by the immense form of the negro.
"Something for me, master; do not forget me! I keep the pretty
things here for the gentlemen to see."
Hamilton drew back with loathing. Then he reflected--it was better,
perhaps, to keep all smooth.
He dived into his pockets and found a roll of small notes, which he
pushed into the negro's hand. The man bowed and let him pass, and
Hamilton went on out into the street.
It was evening now. The calm, lovely golden light of an Indian
evening fell all around him as he walked rapidly back to his
bungalow. As he entered it, how different he felt from the man who
had left it that morning! How light his footstep, how bright and
keen the tone of his voice! It quite surprised himself as he called
out to his butler that he was ready for dinner. Then he bounded up
to his room humming. His very muscles were of quite a different
texture seemingly now from an hour or two ago! How the blood flew
about joyously in his body! Dear Venus! she makes us pay generally,
but who can cavil at the glorious gifts she gives? As soon as his
dinner was disposed of, and all his other servants had retired from
the room, Hamilton called his butler, Pir Bakhs, to him, and held a
long conference with that intelligent and trustworthy individual.
Hamilton was one of those men that by reason of his strikingly good
looks, his charm of manner, his consideration for others, and his
complete control over himself that never allowed him to be betrayed
into an unjust word or action was greatly liked by every one, and
simply worshipped by his servants and all those in any way in a
position dependent on him.
When to-night Pir Bakhs was honoured by his confidence, the
servant's whole will and all his keen energies rose with delight
to serve his master. After he had listened in silence to
Hamilton's wishes, he proceeded to make himself master of the whole
scheme, detail by detail.
"The Sahib wishes a very beautiful bungalow far out, away from the
city? I know of one house across the desert; my cousin was butler
there. The Sahib went away to England, and the bungalow is to be
let furnished. Have I the Sahib's permission to go down to bazaar,
see my cousin to-night? I make all arrangements. I go to-morrow
morning; I get cook and all other servants. I stay there and make
all ready for the Sahib to-morrow evening."
Hamilton smiled at the man's eagerness to serve him. He knew well
that secretly in his heart his Mahommedan butler had always
deplored the severely monastic style in which he had lived, the
absence of women in his master's bungalow, the emptiness of his
arms that should have had to bear his master's children, and that
he now was ready to welcome heartily his master's reformation.
"Could you really do all that, Pir Bakhs?" he asked; "and can you
assure me that the house is a good one, and has the compound been
well kept up?"
"The house is about the same as this, but not quite so large. It is
in the oasis of Deira, across the desert. The Sahib knows how well
the palms grow there. My cousin tells me the compound is very
large; the Sahib there kept four malis; very fine garden, many
English roses there."
[Footnote 1: Gardeners.]
"English roses I do not care for, Pir Bakhs," returned Hamilton
with a melancholy smile. "The roses of the East are far fairer to
The butler bowed with his hand to his forehead. He took his
master's speech as a gracious compliment to his country.
"Everything grow there," he answered, spreading out his hands:
"pomegranates, bamboo, mangoes, bananas, sago palm, cocoanut palm,
magnolia--everything. I go to-morrow, I engage malis; I have all
ready for the Sahib."
"Very well, I trust you with it all. I shall keep on this house
just as it is, and leave most of the servants here. You and your
wives must come out with me, and you engage any other necessary
servants and hire any extra furniture you want."
"The Sahib is very good to his servant," returned the butler, his
face lighting up joyfully. "When will the Sahib shed the light of
his countenance on the bungalow?"
"I will try to run out to see it, to-morrow, after office hours,"
replied Hamilton, "if you will have all ready by then. I shall look
over it, and return to dine here as usual. Then about ten or later,
I will come over and bring your new mistress out with me. You must
have a good supper waiting for us. Take over all the linen and
plate you may want, but see that enough is left in this house so
that I can entertain the English Sahibs here if I want to, and let
my riding camel be well fed early. I shall use him for coming and
going. That's all, I think."
The butler bowed, and retired radiant with joyous importance, and
Hamilton sat on alone by the table thinking. The blood ran at high
tide along his veins, his eyes glowed, looking into space. Life, he
thought, what a joyous thing it was when it stretched out its hands
full of gifts!
The following afternoon, directly his work at the office was
finished, he went out to the oasis in the desert to look at his new
possession, his bungalow in the palms.
The moment he saw it peeping out from amongst them, and surrounded
by roses, he expressed himself satisfied, and named the place
Saied-i-stan, or the place of happiness.
The butler met him there; he was bursting with self-importance.
"You leave everything to me, Sahib--everything. I know all the
Sahib wants. He shall have all. Let him come, ten o'clock, nine
o'clock, no matter when; all quite ready. I am here. I have
everything waiting for the Sahib."
Hamilton smiled and praised him, and went back to the station; took
a pretence of dinner and a hurried cup of coffee, and then went
down into the bazaar with the precious bit of paper containing the
directions to Saidie's dwelling-place in his breast pocket.
He found the house at last, and, going in at the doorless
entrance, climbed patiently the wooden stairs that ran straight up
from it in complete darkness. On the topmost landing--a frail
wooden structure that creaked beneath his feet--he paused, and
rapped twice on the door opposite him.
His heart beat rapidly as he stood there; the blood seemed flying
through it. All the strength of his vigorous body seemed gathering
itself together within him, all the fire of his keen, hungry brain
leapt up, and waiting there in the dark on the narrow landing he
knew the joy of life.
The door was opened. In a moment his eye swept round the interior
of the high windowless room. The floor was bare, with mats here and
there, and in the centre stood a flat pan of charcoal, glowing
under a closed and steaming cooking-pot. At one end a coarse chick,
suspended from a wooden bar, dropped its long lines to the floor,
and behind this, on some cushions, sat Saidie with another of the
The old woman who had opened the door, salaamed, touching the floor
with her forehead as Hamilton walked in, and then securely shut and
fastened the door behind him. Saidie rose and looked through the
shimmering lines of the chick at him as he entered.
Very handsome the tall commanding figure looked in the mean, bare
room: the long neck and well-modelled head, with its black,
close-cut hair, stood out a noble relief against the colourless
wall, and the clear brown skin, with the warm tint of quick blood
in it that showed above the English collar, arrested the girl's
eyes with a keen thrill of joy. Looking at him, she felt rushing
through her the passionate delight that self-surrender to such a
man would be. Without waiting to be summoned, she parted the lines
of the chick, came out from them, and fell on her knees at his
The heat in the shut-up room was very great, and she was wearing
only a straight white muslin tunic, through which all the soft
beauty of her form could be seen, as an English face is seen
through a veil. Her hair was looped back from her brows and tied
simply with a piece of green ribbon, as an English girl's might
have been, and flowed in its thick, black glossy waves to her
Hamilton bent over her and raised her in his arms, feeling in that
moment, though the whole universe were reeling and rocking round
him to its ruin, he would care nothing while he pressed that soft
breast to his.
The old woman sat down cross-legged by the charcoal, and began to
The other girl behind the chick looked out curiously, but her eyes
never noted the strength and beauty of Hamilton's figure, nor the
bright glow in the oval cheek: she looked to see if he wore rings
on his fingers, and tried to catch sight of the links in his cuffs
to see if they were silver or gold.
Saidie had the divine gift of passion: all the fire of the gods in
her veins. Zenobie had none, and Saidie's joy now was something she
could not understand.
"Have you come to take me away, now at once?" Saidie murmured in a
soft, passionate whisper close to his ear, and the accent of joy
and delight went quivering down through the deepest recesses of the
"Yes: are you ready to come with me?" Needless question! put only
for the supreme pleasure of listening to its answer.
"Oh, more than ready," whispered the soft voice back. "How shall
the slave explain her longing to her lord?"
Zenobie had come round the chick, while they stood by the door, and
drawn forward the one little low wooden stool that they possessed.
She came up now, and pulled at Saidie's sleeve.
"Let the Sahib be seated," she said reprovingly, and Saidie let her
arms slip from his neck and drew him forward to the stool by the
With some difficulty Hamilton drew up his long legs and seated
himself cautiously on the small seat; Saidie and Zenobie sat
cross-legged on the ground close to his feet. The old woman ceased
to fan the fire; the bright red glow of the coals fell softly on
the strong, noble beauty of the man's face, and Saidie, looking up
to it, sat speechless, her bosom heaving, her lips parted, her dark
eyes full of mysterious fires, melting, swimming, behind their veil
Zenobie watched her with curiosity: what did she feel for this
infidel who wore no rings and only silver in his cuffs?
Hamilton, as soon as he was seated, drew out his pocket-book--old
and worn, for he spent little on himself--and opened it.
The old woman sat up. Zenobie's eyes gleamed: the business was
going to commence. Only Saidie did not stir nor move her eyes from
"Two thousand rupees was the price agreed upon; here it is," he
said, taking out a thick bundle of notes that occupied the whole
inside of the poor, limp pocket-book; and as the old woman
stretched out a skinny claw for them and began to slowly count
them, he turned his gaze away, on to the upturned face of the girl
watching him with sensual adoration.
The old woman counted through the notes, and then securely tied
them into the end of her chudda.
"The sum is the due sum, well counted," she said, looking up; "and
when will my lord take his slave?"
"To-night," Hamilton replied briefly, but not without a swift
enquiring glance into the girl's eyes. Though he had bought and
paid for her, he could not get out of the Western knack of
considering that the girl's desires had to be consulted.
The old woman raised her hands in affected horror.
"To-night! But she is not well clothed, she is not bathed and
anointed; the bridal robes are not prepared. My lord, it cannot
Hamilton looked at Saidie; she crept to his side and put her head
on his breast.
"Yes, to-night, take me to-night," she murmured eagerly; he smiled,
and put his arm around her.
"The bridal clothes are of no consequence," he answered decisively.
"My camel waits below. I will take her to-night."
"She has no shoes," objected the old woman. "She cannot descend the
"I will carry her down," replied Hamilton, and, springing up from
the little stool, he stooped over the lovely form at his feet,
raising her into his arms, close to his breast. Saidie clung to his
neck with a little cry of pleasure, her bare, warm-tinted feet hung
over his arm.
The old woman gasped: Zenobie laughed. The Englishman looked so
big, so immensely strong. The weight of Saidie, tall and
well-developed as she was, seemed as nothing to him.
"Zenobie, will you hold the lamp at the doorway, that he may see
his way?" Saidie cried out, slipping off a thin gold circlet she
wore on her arm, and letting it drop into the other's hands.
"Farewell, Zenobie; may you be always as happy as I am now."
Zenobie caught the bracelet and ran to the wall, unhooked the lamp
that hung there, and came to the door.
"Farewell, my mother," Saidie said, as they turned to it.
"Farewell, my daughter; be submissive to the Sahib, and obey him in
The door was opened, and by the dim, uncertain light of Zenobie's
lamp, Hamilton, clasping his warm, living burden, went slowly and
heavily down the bending stairs, feeling the life brimming in every
Outside, in the tranquil splendour of the starry Eastern night,
knelt the camel, peacefully awaiting its lord, and as Hamilton
approached it with his burden, it turned its head and large, liquid
eyes upon him with a gurgle of pleasure.
"The camel loves Hamilton Sahib," murmured the girl, as he set her
on the soft red cloth laid over the animal's back, which formed the
only saddle. He took his own place in front of her.
"Hold to my belt firmly," he told her, gathering into his hand the
light rein. "Are you ready for him to rise?"
He felt her little, soft hands glide in between his belt and waist.
"Yes, I am quite ready," she answered, and at a word of
encouragement, the great beast rose with its slow, stately swing to
its feet, and Hamilton guided it towards the Meidan. The soft, hot
air stirred against their faces as they moved through the night.
Nothing could present a more lovely picture than the bungalow that
evening. A low, white house, looking in the moonlight as if built
of marble, surrounded by masses of palms which threw a delicate
tracery of shadow upon it and drooped their beautiful, fan-like,
feathery branches over it, between it and the jewelled sky.
A light verandah ran around the lower of the two stories,
completely covered by the white, star-like bloom of the jessamine
that poured forth floods of fragrance like incense on the hot,
still air, and a giant pink magnolia rioted over the wide porch of
lattice-work. Within it was brightly lighted, and a warm glow from
shaded lamps came out from each window, stealing softly through the
veil of scented jessamine and falling on the masses of pink roses
surrounding the house.
The deep peace, the sweet scent in the silence, the kiss of the
moonlight and the starlight on the sleeping flowers, the exquisite
form of the shadows on the white wall, filled Hamilton with
pleasure: each sense seemed subtly ministered to; he felt as if
invisible spirits round him were feeding him with ambrosia.
He turned round to Saidie as the camel slowly and majestically
entered the compound gate, and saw her clearly framed in the soft
silver light; all this wondrous beauty round them seemed to be to
her beauty but as the harmonies that in an opera float round the
central air. And she smiled as he turned upon her.
"How do you like your new house, Saidie?" he said, half laughing as
he leant back to her.
"Surely it is Paradise, Sahib," she murmured back in awestruck
Within the door waited the servants to welcome them in a double
line, and as Saidie entered, they fell flat with their faces on the
floor. She passed through the prostrate row saluting them, and on
to the foot of the stairs. The ayah that the butler had engaged
rose and followed her mistress upstairs, where she was ushered into
her bath and dressing-room; while the butler, swelling with
importance and joyous pride, led Hamilton to the large room he had
prepared as a bedroom on the first floor. As they went in Hamilton
gave a murmur of approval very dear to the man's heart, as he heard
it, standing respectfully by the door.
The room was large, and two windows, draped with curtains, stood
open to the soft night.
The bed in the centre of the room was one of the wide Indian
charpais which are unrivalled for comfort, and glimmered softly
white beneath its filmy mosquito curtains in the lamplight shed by
four handsome rose-shaded lamps. Small tables stood everywhere,
bearing vases of fresh flowers, roses, and stephanotis; a rich,
deep rose-coloured carpet spread all over the floor, with only a
small border of chetai visible round the walls; and two easy-chairs
of the same colour and numerous smaller ones piled up with cushions
completed the equipment of the room. The air was full of scent, and
the scheme of colour in the room perfect. Nothing but rose and
white was allowed to meet the eye. The flowers were selected with
this view, and the great bowls of roses all blushed the same
glorious tint through the snowy whiteness of the stephanotis.
The room suggested, in its softly-lighted glow of pink and white, a
Hamilton turned to his servant with a pleased smile on his
handsome, animated face.
"You are an artist, Pir Bakhs, and a sort of magician, to do all
this in twelve hours."
Pir Bakhs bowed and salaamed by the door, his well-formed polished
face wreathed in many smiles.
Downstairs the girl was already waiting for her lord, bathed, and
with her long hair shaken out and brushed after the dust of the
desert ride, and looped back from her forehead by a fresh green
ribbon. She did not sit down, but stood waiting.
This room showed the same care as the upper one, and the table was
laid out with Hamilton's plate and glass and four beautiful
epergnes held the flowers.
Natives are artists, particularly in colour arrangements; the whole
colour scheme here was white and green, and any table in Belgravia
would have had hard work to equal this one. Saidie stood looking at
it, and the servants, already ranged by the sideboard, stood with
their eyes on the ground, yet conscious of her wonderful beauty,
and pleased by it in the same way that they would have felt pride
and pleasure in the beauty and good condition of a new horse or
camel acquired by their master.
After a few minutes Hamilton came down. He had put on his evening
clothes as they had been laid out for him by the bearer, and
looked radiant as he entered.
Saidie gave a little cry as she saw him. His present dress, well
cut and close-fitting, showed his splendid figure to greater
advantage than the loose suit she had seen him in hitherto. His
long neck carried his fine, spirited head erect, and the masses of
thick, black hair, with just the least wave in it, shone in the
lamplight. His well-cut face, with its gay animation and charming,
debonair, unaffected expression, made a kingly and perfect picture
to the girl's dazzled eyes.
As they took their places and their soup was served, she could not
detach her gaze from his face.
He laughed as he looked at her.
"Come, you must be hungry. Take your soup while it's hot; don't
waste your time looking at me."
"Sahib, I cannot help looking at you. You are so wonderful to me!
Please give me leave to. I do not want any soup."
Hamilton, who by this time had finished his own, leant back in his
chair and laughed again, looking at her with eyes blazing with
mirth and passion. This innocent, genuine admiration was very
pleasing to him in its flattery; this worship offered to himself,
rather than his gifts, was something new to him, and the girl's
beauty sent all the fires of life in quick streams through his
frame as he looked on it. He was alive for the first time in his
existence, and filled with a surprised happiness as great as the
girl's. He was as virgin to joy as she was to love. "You are the
dearest little girl I ever knew," he said; "but if you won't take
soup, you must eat fish. Yes, I positively refuse you my permission
to look at me till you have finished that whole plate."
Saidie dropped her eyes to her fish very submissively at this,
while Hamilton himself filled her glass.
"Have you ever tasted wine?" he asked. "This is champagne; drink
it, and tell me what you think of it."
"All my people are Mahommedans; we do not drink wine," Saidie
replied, taking up the glass and sipping from it.
"Perhaps you won't like it," he suggested, watching her.
"If the Sahib gives it to me I shall like it," replied Saidie,
smiling at him over the delicate golden glass: it threw its light
upwards into her great gleaming eyes, and Hamilton kissed the
little hand that put the glass gently down on the table again.
Next after the fish came game and joints, course after course, more
food in that one meal than Saidie was accustomed to see for many
people for a week. Her own appetite was soon satisfied, and she sat
for the most part gazing at Hamilton, with her hands tightly locked
together in her lap: such a nervous delight filled her, such a
strange joy in knowing herself to be alive, to be possessed of a
beautiful body that by reason of its beauty was worthy the caresses
of a man like this; such a pure rapture animated every fibre, to
realise that it was in her power to give pleasure to him. With such
feelings as these no faintest hint of humiliation or degradation
could mingle. Saidie felt only that superb and joyous pride that
Nature originally intended the female to have in her surrender to
Her very breath seemed to flutter softly with joyous trepidation
and excitement as it passed over her lips. That she was to be his,
held in his arms, admitted to his embrace, seemed to her to be the
crown of her life, an honour given by special divine favour.
So must Rhea Sylvia have felt praying before her Vestal altar when
Mars first appeared to her startled eyes.
And Hamilton, with his keen, sensitive temperament, saw into her
mind clearly, and was fully aware of all this fervent adoration,
this intense passionate worship springing within her; and an
immense tenderness and reverence grew up within him, enclosing all
his passion as the crystal vessel encloses the crimson wine.
That she would not in her present state have shrunk or flinched
from a knife, if only his hand held it while it wounded her, he
knew quite well, and this wonderful voluntary self-sacrifice which
is the soul of all female passion appealed to him as a very holy
He knew that constantly this adoring love was poured out by women
for men, that almost every virgin heart beats with this same
worship as the first pain of love enters it, but ah! for how short
a time! How quickly the man tears open those eyes that would so
willingly be closed to his vileness! how soon come the infidelity,
the lies and the meanness, the trickery and the treachery! How
assiduously the man teaches the woman who loves him that there is
nothing in him worthy of adoration, not even admiration, not even
decent respect! How little confidence, how little credence she soon
gives to his word that was once so sacred to her! How in her heart,
though her lips say nothing, is that once rapturous worship changed
into a measureless contempt!
Men persistently teach women that they must not expect the best
from them, but the lowest. And the women cry in pain as they see
the white mantle of their love trampled upon and dragged in the
mire of lies and falseness, and they take it back from the base
hands and burn it in the fires kindled in their outraged hearts.
Something of this flashed through Hamilton's brain as he met the
adoring trust and love in the girl's eyes, and an unspoken vow
formed itself within him that he would not deceive and betray it,
that his lips should not lie to her, that to the end he would be to
her as she now saw him in the glamour of those first hours.
When he had tempted her to every sweet and bon-bon on the table,
and made her drink all the wine he thought good for her, he sent
the servants away, and they remained alone together in the
dining-room with their coffee before them. He put his arm round
her, and drawing her out of her own chair, took her on to his knees
and pressed her head down on his shoulder.
"Are you not tired with that long ride on the camel?" he asked.
"No, Sahib, I am not tired."
The soft weight of her body pressed upon him; her lids drooped over
her eyes as her head leaned against his neck.
"I think you are tired and very sleepy," he repeated, pinching the
glowing arm in its transparent muslin sleeve.
"If the Sahib says so, I must be," responded Saidie quite simply.
"Come, then, and sleep," he said in her ear, and they went
Saidie gave a little cry of delight as they entered together the
rose-filled room, and beyond its soft shaded lights she saw the
great flashing planets in the dark sky.
"This is a different and a better home for love than we had last
night," said Hamilton softly, as he closed the door.
A great peace reigned all round them. Within and without the
bungalow there was no sound. The lights burned steadily and
subdued, the sweet scent of the flowers hung in the air like a
silent benediction upon them.
He put his arm round her, and felt her tremble excessively as his
hand unfastened the clasp of her tunic. He stopped, surprised.
"Why do you tremble so? Are you afraid of me?" he asked, looking
down upon her, all the tenderness and strength of a great passion
in his eyes.
"No, no," she returned passionately, "I tremble because great waves
of happiness rush over me at your touch. I cannot tell you what I
feel, Sahib; the love and happiness within me is breaking me into
"Then you must break in my arms," he murmured back softly, drawing
her into his embrace, "so that I shall not lose even one of them."
* * * * *
In the morning a flood of sunlight rushing into the room through
the open windows, bringing with it the gay chatter of birds, roused
the lovers. Hamilton opened his eyes first, and, lifting his head
from the pillow, looked down upon Saidie still asleep beside him.
In the rich mellow light of the room her loveliness glowed under
his eyes like a jewel held in the sun. He hardly drew his breath,
looking down upon her. Her heavy hair, full of deep purplish
shades, and with the wave in it not unusual in the Asiatic, was
pushed off the pale, pure bronze of the forehead, on which were
drawn so perfectly the long-sweeping Oriental brows. The nose,
delicately straight, with its proud high-arched nostrils, and the
tiny upper lip, led the eye on to the finely-carved Eastern mouth,
of which the lips now were softly, firmly folded in repose. How
exquisitely Nature had fashioned those lips, putting more elaborate
work in those lines and curves of that one feature than in the
whole of an ordinary English face. Hamilton hung over her, filled
with a passion of tenderness, watching the gentle breath move
softly the warm column of bronze throat and raise the soft, full
Passion, in its highest phase, is indeed the supreme gift of the
gods. In giving it to a mortal for once they forget their envy: for
once they raise him to their level; for that once they grant him
Hamilton now marvelled at himself. The whole fruit of his forty
years of life--all that accomplished work, success, wealth,
rewarded worth, satisfied ambition, all the pleasures his youth,
his health and strength, and powers had always brought him, crushed
together--could not equal this: the charm and ecstasy with which he
gazed down on this warm beauty of the flesh beside him.
And yet he knew that it was not really in that flesh, not even in
that beauty, that lay the delight. It was in himself, in his own
intense desire, and the gratification of it, that the joy had
birth; and if the gods give not this desire, no matter what else
they give, it is useless.
The girl might have been as lovely, Hamilton himself, and all the
circumstances the same, yet waking thus he might have been but the
ordinary poor, cold, clay-like mortal a man usually is. But the
great desire for this beauty that had flamed up within him, now in
its possession, gave him that fervour and fire, those wings to his
soul, that seemed to make him divine. It was for him one of those
moments for which men live a life-time, as he indeed had done, but
they repay him when they come. To some, they come never. To these
life must indeed be dark.
Suddenly the girl opened her eyes; the fire in his bent upon her
seemed to electrify and thrill her into life, and with a little
murmur of delight she stretched up her rounded arms to him.
At breakfast Hamilton regretted he should have to leave her all
day; what would she do?
"You must not think of it, Sahib," she answered. "Have I not the
garden? I shall be quite happy. I shall sing all day long to the
flowers about my lord, and count the minutes till he comes back."
The office did not attract Hamilton at all that day, yet he felt it
was better to attend there as usual, to make no break in his usual
Scandal there was sure to be, sooner or later, about his
desert-bungalow, but at least it was better not to give to the
scandal-mongers the power to say he had neglected his duties. Yet
he lingered over his departure, and took her many times into his
arms to kiss her before he went, keeping his impatient Arab waiting
at the door. He would not use the camel again this morning, but
left it resting in its corner of the compound beneath the palms.
After Hamilton had gone, Saidie stepped through the long window
into the verandah, full of green light, completely shaded as it was
by the giant convolvulus that spread all over it. The chetai
crushed softly under her feet, and she went on slowly to the end
where it opened to the compound. Here she stood for a moment gazing
into the wilderness of beauty of mingled sun and shade before her.
Against the dazzling blue of the sky the branches of the palms
stood out in gleaming gold, throwing their light shade over the
masses of crimson and white and yellow roses that rioted together
beneath. Groves of the feathery bamboo drooped their delicate
stems in the fervent, sweet-scented heat, over the white,
thick-lipped lilies, from one to other of which passed languidly
on velvet wings great purple butterflies.
The pomegranate trees made a fine parade of their small, exquisite
scarlet flowers, and pushed them upwards into the sparkling
sunlight through the veils of white starry blossoms of the
jessamine that climbed over and trailed from every tree in the
The girl went forward dreaming. How completely, superbly happy she
was! And she had nothing but the gifts of Nature, such as she, the
kindly one, gives to the gay bird swinging on the bough, the
butterfly on the flower, the deer springing on the hills: health
and youth, beauty and love.
These only were hers; nothing that man ordinarily strives
for--neither wealth nor fame, fine houses, costly garments, jewels,
slaves, power; none of these were hers. Over her body hung simply a
muslin tunic worth a few annas; of the garden in which she stood
not a flower belonged to her, no weight of jewels lay on her happy
heart. She had no name; she was only a dancing-girl from the
Deccan. With the animals she shared that wonderful kingdom of joy
that they possess: their food and mate secured, their vigorous
health bounding in their limbs, their beauty radiant in their
Are they not the Lords of Creation in the sense that they are lords
of joy? Man is the slave of the earth, doomed by his own vile lusts
to bondage of the most dismal kind. All of those gifts that Nature
gives, and from which alone can be drawn happiness, he tramples
beneath his feet, putting his neck under the yoke of ceaseless
toil, striving for things which in the end bring neither peace nor
All within the compound under the reign of Nature rejoiced. The
parroquets swung on the trees, and the butterflies floated from the
marble whiteness of the lily's cloisters to the deep, warm recesses
of the rose, and the dancing-girl walked singing through the
sparkling, scented air thinking of her lord.
Hamilton, speeding down the dusty, burning road to his office in
the native city, felt a strange bounding of his heart as his
thoughts clung to the low, white bungalow amongst the palms
outside the station, and all that it held for him.
He went through his work that day with a wonderful energy, born of
the new life within him. Nothing fatigued, nothing worried him. The
court-house air did not oppress him. He heard the pleadings and
made his decisions with ease and promptitude. His patience,
gentleness, his clearness and force of brain were wonderful. The
whole electricity of his body was satisfied: the man was perfectly
well and perfectly happy. Who cannot work under such conditions? In
the evening his horse was brought round, and with a wild leaping of
the heart he swung himself into the saddle. The animal felt
instantly the elation of his master, and at once broke into a
canter; as this was not checked, he threw up his lovely head, and
as Hamilton turned across the plain, let himself go in a long
gallop towards where the palms glowed living gold against the
Hamilton had hardly passed through the white chick into the
interior of the house before he heard the sound of bare feet upon
the matting, and through the soft magnolia-scented, pinky gloom of
the room, shaded from the sunset light, Saidie came and fell at his
knees, taking his dusty hands and kissing them.
Hamilton lifted her up, and held her a little from him, that he
might feast his eyes on the delicate beautiful carving of the lips,
and on the great velvet eyes, soft, round throat, and breasts
swelling so warmly lovely under the transparent gauze.
Then he crushed her up in his arms close to his breast, and carried
her to their own room with the golden and green chicks all round
it, where the servants did not come without a summons. The garland
she had twisted on her head smelt sweetly of roses, and the masses
of her silky hair of sandal-wood; her soft lips, that knew so well
instinctively the art of kissing, were on his; the warm, tender
arms clasped his neck. All the way that he carried her she murmured
little words of passion in his ear.
After dinner the servants carried chairs for them into the
verandah, with a small table laden with drinks and sweetmeats, that
they might sit and watch the moon rising behind the palms in the
compound, and see the hot silver light pour slowly through their
exquisite branches and foliage.
"How did you amuse yourself all day?" he asked her as she sat on
his knee, his arm round the flexible, supple waist pulsating under
the silky web of her tunic.
"I was so happy. I had so much to do, so much to think of," she
answered, gazing back into his eyes bent upon her, and eagerly
drawing in their fire. "I wandered in the compound and made garland
after garland, then I sang to my rabab and practised my dancing. In
the heat I went in and slept on my lord's bed dreaming of him--ah!
how I dreamt of him!" She broke off sighing, and those sighs fanned
the blazing fires in the man's veins.
"You were quite contented, then, with your day?"
"How could I not be contented when I had my lord to think about,
his love of last night, his love of the coming night?"
Hamilton sighed and smiled at the same time.
"English wives need more than that to make them content," he
"English wives," repeated Saidie, with her laugh like the sound of
a golden bell; "what do they know of love?"
"Not much certainly, I think," replied Hamilton.
For a moment the vision of a thin blonde face, with its expression
of sour discontent, rose before him. What had he not given that
woman--what had she not demanded? Extravagant clothes to deck out
her tall lean body, a carriage to drive her here and there, a
mansion to live in, all the money he could gain by constant
work--these things she demanded because she was his wife, and he
had given them, and yet she was always discontented, simply because
she was one of those women who do not know desire nor the delight
of it. This one had nothing but that divine gift, and it made all
her life joy.
"Dance for me now in the cool," murmured Hamilton in the little
fine curved ear with the rose-bud just over it.
Saidie slipped off his knee, and fastening the little gilt link at
her neck more securely, drew her soft filmy garment more closely to
her, and commenced to dance before him in the screened verandah,
with the hot moonlight, filtered through the delicate tracery; of
innumerable leaves falling on her smooth, warm-tinted body.
To please him, to please him, her lord, her owner, her king: it was
the one passion in her thoughts, and it flowed through every limb
and muscle, glowed in her eyes, quivered on her parted lips, and
made each movement a miracle of sweet sinuous grace.
The soft, hot night passed minute by minute, the scents of a
thousand flowers mingled together in the still violet air. Some
white night-moths came and fluttered round the exquisite form on
whose rounded contours the light played so softly, and Hamilton lay
back in his chair, silent, absorbed, hardly drawing his breath
through his lungs, shaken by the nervous beating of his heart.
Motionless he lay there, almost breathless, for the wine of life
was in all his veins, mounting to his head, intoxicating him.
"I am very tired; may I stop now?" came at last in a low murmur
from the curved lips so sweetly smiling at him, and the whole soft
body drooped like a flower with fatigue. Hamilton opened his arms
wide. She saw how the fresh colour glowed in the handsome cheek,
how his splendid neck swelled as the red deer's in November, how
the dark eyes blazed upon her.
"Come to me," he commanded, and she flew to his arms as the
love-bird flies upward to her mate in the pomegranate tree.
For three months Hamilton and Saidie lived in the white bungalow in
the palms, and drank of the wine of life together, and were happy
in the overwhelming intoxication it gives.
For three months Saidie lived there, never going beyond the
precincts of the house and the palace of flowers that was the
Why should she leave them? What had she to gain by going out into
the dusty way? What had she to seek? Her garden of Eden, her
Paradise, was here. She was too wise to go beyond its limits.
Pedlars and merchants of all sorts brought their best and richest
wares to her, and Hamilton sat by her in the verandah, commanding
her to buy all that pleased her, though she protested she needed
Jewels for her neck, and gold anklets and bracelets, and robes and
sweetmeats were laid out before her. Only the best of the bazaar
was brought, and of this again only the best was chosen. And when
Hamilton was not there she walked from room to room singing,
clothed in purple silken gauze, with his jewels blazing on her
breast, his kisses still burning on her lips. Then she would take
her rabab and play to the listening flowers, or practise her
dancing, the source of his pleasure, or lie in the noonday heat on
the edge of the bubbling spring that rose up in the moss under the
boughain-villia and look towards the East and dream of his
home-coming. What did she want more?
Hamilton now lived the enchanted life of one who is wholly absorbed
in a secret passion. He was wise--more wise than men generally
are--and made no effort to parade his treasure. This wonderful
exotic, this flower of happiness, that bloomed so vividly in the
dark, secluded recesses of his heart, how did he know that the
destructive heat and light of publicity might not fade and sear
its marvellous petals? He told no one of his life; took no one out
into the desert with him, to the bungalow among the palms.
He was away a great deal. His work and certain social duties
claimed a large part of his day, and during all that time he had to
leave her alone with her flowers, but this gave him no anxiety. It
was not a dangerous experiment, as it always is to leave a European
woman alone. He knew that Saidie, the Oriental, would spend the
whole time dreaming of him, longing for him, singing to the flowers
of him, talking to her women-attendants of him, filling the whole
garden and house with his image till the longed-for moment of his
And to Hamilton, full of unspoiled life and vigour, this security,
this certainty of her complete fidelity was a wondrous charm.
Unlike a man of jaded passions, who requires his love to be
constantly stimulated by the fear of imminent loss, Hamilton, full
of unused strength, and thirsty after the joy of life, now that the
cup was offered him, drank of it naturally and with ecstasy,
needing no salt and bitter olives of jealousy between the
For years he had longed for love and happiness: at last he had
found both, and with simple, uncavilling thankfulness he clasped
them to his breast and held them there, content.
Saturday and Sunday were their great days. Hamilton left the office
at two on Saturday afternoon, and was back at the bungalow by five.
They went to bed early that night, and rose on the Sunday morning
with the first glimmer of dawn. Everything would be prepared
overnight for a day's excursion and picnic in the desert, which
Saidie particularly delighted in.
The great brown camel, fat and sleek like all Hamilton's animals,
and with an enormous weight of rich hair on his supple neck, would
be kneeling waiting for them below in the dewy compound, while the
early tender light stole softly through the palms; and they would
mount and go swinging out through the great open spaces of the
desert, full of delicate white light, towards the sister-oasis of
Dirampir, where masses of cocoanut palms grew round a set of
springs, and waved their branches joyfully as they drew in the salt
nourishment of the air from the amethystine sea not fifty miles
Into the shelter of these palms they would come as the first great
golden wave of light from the climbing sun broke over the desert,
and, descending from the camel, walk about in the groves by the
spring, and select a place for boiling their kettle and having
their breakfast. The long ride in the keen air of the morning gave
them great appetites, and they enjoyed it in the whole joyous
beauty of the scene round them. The palm branches over them grew
gold against the laughing blue of the sky, a thousand shafts of
sunlight pierced through the fan-like tracery, the golden orioles
at play darted, chasing each other from bough to bough, the spring
bubbled its cool musical notes beside them, and the sense of the
blighting heat of the ravening desert round them seemed to
accentuate the beauty of the peace and shade in the oasis.
Saidie enjoyed these days beyond everything, and would sit singing
at the foot of a palm, weaving a garland of white clematis for
Hamilton's handsome head as it rested on her lap.
No English people ever came to the oasis; as a matter of fact, the
English generally do avoid the best and most beautiful spots in or
near an Indian station; but the place was greatly beloved by the
natives who came there to doze and dream, play, sing, and weave
garlands in the usual harmless manner in which a native takes his
pleasure. Looking at them standing or sitting in their harmonious
groups against a background of golden light and delicate shade,
Hamilton often thought how well this scene compared with that of
the Britisher taking a holiday--Hampstead Heath, for instance, with
its noisy drunkenness, its spirit of hateful spite, its ill-used
animals, its loathsome language. The Oriental endeavours to enjoy
himself, and his method is generally peaceful and poetic: the
singing of songs, the weaving of garlands, and the letting alone of
others. The Briton's idea of enjoying himself is extremely simple;
it consists solely in annoying his neighbours.
To see a handsome English Sahib here was to the habitual
frequenters of the oasis something rather remarkable, but these
people are early taught the custody of the eyes and to mind their
own business. Therefore Hamilton and Saidie were not troubled by
offensive stares, or in any other way. All there were free,
gathered to enjoy themselves, each man in his own way; and the
natives in their gay colours added to the beauty, without
disturbing the peace of the scene, much as the bright-plumaged
birds that flitted from tree to tree absorbed in their own affairs.
How Hamilton enjoyed those long, calm, golden hours--the golden
hours of Asia, so full of the enchantment of rich light and colour,
soft beauty before the eyes, sweet scent of the jessamine in the
nostrils, the warbling of birds, and Saidie's love songs in his
Not till the glorious rose of the sunset diffused itself softly in
the luminous sky, and all the desert round them grew pink, and the
shadows of the palms long in the oasis, and the great planets above
them burst blazing into view into the still rose-hued sky, did they
rise from the side of the spring and begin to think of their
homeward ride. And what a delight it was that night ride home
through the majestic silence of the desert, where their own hearts'
beating and the soft footfall of the camel were the only sounds!
the wild flash of planet and star, and sometimes the soft glimmer
of the rising moon, their only light! Eros, the god of passion,
seated with them on the camel, their only companion!
To Saidie, cradled in his arms, looking upwards to his face above
her, its beauty distinct in the soft light, feeling his heart
beating against her side, it seemed as if her happiness was too
great for the human frame to bear, as if it must dissolve, melt
into nothingness, against his breast, and her spirit pass into the
great desert solitudes, dispersed, almost annihilated, in the agony
and ecstasy of love.
Week after week passed lightly by in their brilliant setting, the
hours on their winged feet danced by, and these two lived
independent of all the world, wrapped up in their own intimate joy.
One morning, just as he was about to leave the bungalow, he heard
Saidie's voice calling him back. He turned and saw her smiling
face hanging over the stair-rail above him. He remounted the
stairs, and she drew him into their room. Her face was radiant, her
eyes blazed with light as she looked at him.
"I have something to tell you, Sahib! I could not let you go
without saying it. Only think! is not Allah good to me? I am to be
the mother of the Sahib's child," and she fell on her knees,
kissing his hands in a passion of joy. Hamilton stood for the
moment silent. He was startled, unprepared for her words, unused to
the wild joy with which the Oriental woman hails a coming life.
Her message carried a certain shock to him: it augured change; and
his happiness had been so perfect, so absolute, what would change,
any change, even if wrought by the divine Hand itself, mean to him
Saidie, terrified at his silence, looked up at him wildly.
"What have I done? Is not my lord pleased?" Her accent was one of
the acutest fear.
Hamilton bent down and raised her to his breast.
"Dearest one, light of my soul, how could I not be pleased?" and
he kissed her many times on the lips, and on the soft upper arm
that pressed his throat, and on her neck, till even she was
"Come and sit with me for a moment that I may tell you all," she
said. Hamilton sat beside her on the bed, and she told him many
things that an Englishwoman would never say, nor would it enter
into her mind to conceive them.
Hamilton was greatly moved as he sat listening. The wonderful
imagery, the vivid language in which she clothed her pure joyous
thoughts appealed to his own poetic, artistic habit of mind.
On his way across the desert to the city, Hamilton pondered deeply
over the news and the girl's unaffected joy. Since all those
whispered confidences poured into his ear while they sat side by
side on the bed, the throb of jealousy he had first felt at her
words had passed away. Saidie had made it so clear to him that her
joy was not so great at being the mother of a child as that she was
to be the mother of _his_ child, and similarly Hamilton felt in
all his being a curious thrill at the thought that his child was
hers, that this new life was created in and of her life that had
become so infinitely dear to him.
He was glad now that his wife had refused to have a child. The
bitter pain he had felt then, those years ago, how little he had
thought it was to be the parent of this present joy. Now the woman
he loved as he had loved no other would be the one to bear his
child. Still the thought of the suffering the mother would go
through depressed his sensitive mind, and the idea of the risk to
her life that came suddenly into his brain made him turn white to
the lips as he rode in the hot sunlight. Such intense happiness as
he had known for the last three months can turn a brave man into a
coward. For a moment he faced the horrid thought that had come to
him--Saidie dead! And the whole brilliant plain, laughing sky, and
dancing sunlight and waving palms became black to him. To go back
to that dreary existence of nothingness of his former life, after
once having known the delight that this bright, eager, ardent
love, these delicate little clinging hands had made for him, would
"No," he murmured to himself, "if she goes, then it's a snuff out
for me too. I have never cared for life except as she has made it
And the cloud rolled off him a little as he met the idea of his own
death. Besides, Saidie had declared so positively that she could
come to no harm, that it would all be pure delight, that pain and
suffering could not exist for her in such a matter since she would
be all joy in making him this gift, that gradually he grew calmer
as he thought over her words.
"But I didn't want any change," he burst out a little later,
talking to the still golden air round him. "Confound it! I was
perfectly happy. How impossible it is to keep anything as it is in
this world! All our actions drag in upon us their consequences so
fast! There is no getting away from this horrible change, no
enjoying one's happiness peacefully when one has obtained it."
When he arrived at his office in the city he found that a far
heavier cloud had arisen on his horizon than that created by
Saidie's words. The English mail was in, and a long thin envelope,
impressed with a much-hated handwriting, faced him on the top of
the pile of his correspondence as he entered.
He picked it up and opened it.
"DEAR FRANK,--You often used to invite me to come to India,
and I have really at last made up my mind to. I am coming out
by next month's boat to stay with you for a time. I have been
very much run down in health lately, and my doctor says a
sea-voyage and six months in India will be first-rate for me.
I hope you have a nice comfortable house and good servants.
--Yours affectionately, JANE."
Hamilton stared at the letter savagely as he put it down before him
on the table, a sort of grim smile breaking slowly over his face.
He felt convinced that in some way his wife had learned of his
new-found happiness, and that had given birth to her sudden desire
to visit India after twenty years of persistent refusal to do so.
He sat motionless for a long time, then stretched out his hand for
an English telegraph form and wrote on it--
"Regret unable to receive you now. Defer visit. FRANK."
He did not for one moment think that his wife would obey his
injunction, or that his wire would have the least effect on her;
but he wished to have a good ground to stand on when she arrived,
and he declined to receive her. His teeth set for a moment as he
thought of the interview.
"This is a sort of wind-up day of my happiness," he muttered, as he
took his place at the office table. "Well, I suppose no one could
expect such pleasure as I have had these last three months to
continue; but, whatever happens, Saidie and I will stick together."
He sat musing for a moment, staring with unseeing eyes at the pile
of work in front of him.
"Saidie, my Saidie! I shall never part from her; therefore I can
never part from my happiness." He smiled a little at the play on
the words, and then commenced his day's labours.
That evening, when he returned, Saidie noticed at once the
depression in his usually gay, bright manner. When they were alone
at dinner she laid her hand on his.
"What has darkened the light of my lord's countenance?" she asked
Hamilton drew from his pocket his wife's letter, and laid it beside
"Can you read that, Saidie? If so, you will know all about it."
The girl leaned one elbow on the table and bent over the letter,
studying it. She had been trying hard to improve herself in the
language, of which she knew already something, and with Oriental
quickness, had acquired much in the past three months. She made out
the sense now easily enough.
"This lady is a wife of yours?" she said quickly, with a swift
upward glance at him, when she had finished reading the letter.
Hamilton laughed a little.
"She was my wife till I saw you, Saidie. No one is my wife now, nor
ever will be, but you."
A soft glow of supreme pleasure and pride lighted up Saidie's great
lustrous eyes. She bent her head and put her soft lips to his
"Have you forbidden this wife to come to you?" she asked after a
"Yes, I have; but she will come all the same. English wives think
it foolish to obey their husbands."
He laughed sardonically, and Saidie looked bewildered and
* * * * *
A month later, a long, lean woman sat in a deck chair on board an
Indian liner as it crossed the enchanted waters of the Indian
Ocean. Enchanted, for surely it is some magician's touch that makes
these waters such a rich and glorious blue! How they roll so
gently, full of majestic beauty, crested with sunlight, under the
ships they carry so lightly! How the gold light leaps over them,
how the azure sky above laughs down to their tranquil mirror! how
the gleaming flying-fish rise in their glinting cloud, whirl over
them, and then softly disappear into their mysterious embrace!
The long, lean woman saw none of the magic round her. Her dull,
boiled-looking eyes gazed through the soft sunlight without seeing
it. In her lap lay a thin foreign letter and a telegram, together
with a copy of "Anna Lombard" that she was reading with the
strongest disapproval. She picked up the letter and glanced through
it again, though she knew it nearly by heart, especially one
"Your husband is leading such a life here! He has built a
wonderful white marble palace in the desert for an Egyptian
dancing-girl. They say it's a sort of Antony and Cleopatra
over again, and she goes about loaded with jewels and golden
chains. I don't know if you are getting your allowance
regularly, but I should think your husband is pretty well
ruining himself. I never saw a man so changed. He used to be
so melancholy, but now he is as bright as possible, and looks
so well and handsome. I hear the woman is expecting a child,
and they are both as pleased as they can be. I hear all about
it, as our cook's cousin is sister to the ayah your husband
hired for the woman, and my ayah gets it all from our cook. I
really should, my dear, come out and look into the matter, as
after a time he will probably want to stop sending home his
The thin sheet fell into the woman's lap again, and she seemed to
ponder deeply. Then she read Hamilton telegram again--
"Regret unable to receive you now. Defer visit," and a disagreeable
laugh broke from her thick, colourless lips.
"I will go out and see her first," she thought, smoothing down with
a large, bony hand the folds of her rather prim white cambric
dress. She was a very stupid woman, and not a passionate one;
therefore the agony of pain of a loving, jealous wife was quite
unknown to her. But she was malignant, as such people usually are.
She loved making other people uncomfortable in a general way, and
taking away from them anything she could that they valued. She also
felt a peculiar curiosity such as those who cannot feel passion
themselves have usually about the intense happiness it gives to
others. The picture of this other woman, who had found joy
apparently in the arms she herself years ago had thrust aside,
interested her profoundly. She told herself that this Egyptian
loved Hamilton's money, but some instinct within her held her back
from believing this.
The little bit about the child went deeply into her mind. It
rested there like an arrow-head, and her thoughts grew round it.
When the ship came into port a week or two later, Mrs. Hamilton
was one of the first passengers to land, and after careful
enquiries and well-bestowed tips she was expeditiously conveyed
by ticker-gharry and sedan chair across the desert to the
bungalow at Deira. She was considerably pleased on seeing that
the white marble palace resolved itself into an ordinary white
bungalow, but the garden, was unutterably lovely, and, as she saw
in a moment, represented something quite unusual in cost and
[Footnote 1: Hired carriage.]
It was just high noon when she arrived, and she thankfully escaped
from the suffocating heat and glare of the desert into the cool
shaded hall, and gave her card with a throb of spiteful elation to
The Oriental servant read the name, and hurried with the card to
his mistress's room. On hearing of the arrival of the Mem-Sahib,
Saidie descended from the upper room, where she had been lying in
the noonday heat, and, pushing aside the great golden chick that
swung before the drawing-room entrance, went in.
Her dress was of the most exquisite Indian muslin that Hamilton
could obtain, heavily and wonderfully embroidered in gold, and
peacocks' eyes of vivid deep blue and green; her feet were bare,
for Hamilton, in his revolt from English ways, had kept up Oriental
traditions as far as possible in the clothing of his new mistress,
and weighty anklets of solid gold gleamed beneath the border of her
skirt. Round the perfect column of her neck, full and stately as
the red deer's, were twisted great strings of pearls, throwing
their pale irridescent greenish hue onto the velvet skin. Above the
splendour of her dress rose the regal and lovely face, its delicate
carving and the marvel of its dark, flashing, enquiring eyes
vividly striking in the clear mellow light of the room.
Mrs. Hamilton, dressed in a plain, grey alpaca dress, rather hot
and dusty after her long drive, sat on one of the low divans
awaiting her. As Saidie entered, the glory of her youth and beauty
struck upon the seated woman like a heavy blow, under which she
started to her feet and stood for a second, involuntarily
"Salaam, be seated," murmured Saidie, indicating a fauteuil near
the one on which she sank herself.
Mrs. Hamilton came forward, her hands closing and unclosing
spasmodically in their grey silk gloves, and sat down again, her
eyes riveted on the other's face.
"Do you know who I am?" she said at last in a stifled voice.
Saidie smiled faintly; one of those liquid, lingering smiles that
made Hamilton's heaven.
"Yes, I know; you are Mem Sahib Hamilton, the first, the old
Saidie, according to her own Eastern ideas, was in the position of
a superior receiving an unfortunate inferior. She was the latest
acquired--the darling, the reigning queen--confronted with the poor
cast-off, old, unattractive first wife; and being of a nature
equally noble as the type of her beauty, she felt it incumbent on
her, in such a situation, to treat the unfortunate with every
consideration, gentleness, and tenderness.
The British matron's views of the relative positions of first and
subsequent wives differs, however, from Saidie's, and Mrs.
Hamilton's face grew purple as she heard Saidie's answer, and some
faint comprehension of Saidie's view was borne in upon her.
"Where is my husband?" she demanded fiercely.
"The Sahib is in the city to-day," returned Saidie calmly. How
odious they were, these Englishwomen, with their short skirts and
big boots, and red, hot faces, with great black straw houses over
them, and their curt manners, and the impertinent way they spoke of
"When will he be back?" pursued the other, sharply.
Saidie glanced towards the clock.
"In a few hours; perhaps more. He returns at sunset."
"And what do you do all day, shut up by yourself?" questioned her
visitor, with a sort of contemptuous surprise.
"I think of him," returned Saidie, quite simply, with a sort of
proud pleasure that made the Englishwoman stare incredulously.
"Silly little fool!" she ejaculated, with a harsh, disdainful
"Does he give you all those things, and dress you up like that?"
she added, staring at the pearls on Saidie's neck.
"He has given me everything I have," she replied, seriously.
That Hamilton was wasting his substance on another went home far
more keenly to his lawful wife than that he was wasting his love on