Part 12 out of 12
to speak. I tried--but I did not. I bore my punishment--you don't
know, you'll never know what I felt last--last night--when--I've borne
that. But there's one thing I can't bear. I've lived a lie with you.
My love for you overcame me. I fell. I have told you that I fell.
Don't--don't because of that--don't take away your heart from me
entirely. Domini--Domini--don't do that."
She heard a sound of despair in his voice.
"Oh, Boris," she said, "if you knew! There was only one moment when I
fancied my heart was leaving you. It passed almost before it came, and
"But," he interrupted, "do you know--do you know that since--since I
spoke, since I told you, you've--you've never touched me?"
"Yes, I know it," she replied quietly.
Something told him to be silent then. Something told him to wait till
the night came and the camp was pitched once more.
They rested at noon for several hours, as it was impossible to travel
in the heat of the day. The camp started an hour before they did. Only
Batouch remained behind to show them the way to Ain-la-Hammam, where
they would pass the following night. When Batouch brought the horses
"Does Madame know the meaning of Ain-la-Hammam?"
"No," said Domini. "What is it?"
"Source des tourterelles," replied Batouch. "I was there once with an
"Source des tourterelles," repeated Domini. "Is it beautiful, Batouch?
It sounds as if it ought to be beautiful."
She scarcely knew why, but she had a longing that Ain-la-Hammam might
be tender, calm, a place to soothe the spirit, a place in which
Androvsky might be influenced to listen to what she had to tell him
without revolt, without despair. Once he had spoken about the
influence of place, about rising superior to it. But she believed in
it, and she waited, almost anxiously, for the reply of Batouch. As
usual it was enigmatic.
"Madame will see," he answered. "Madame will see. But the
"The Englishman was ravished. 'This,' he said to me, 'this, Batouch,
is a little Paradise!' And there was no moon then. To-night there will
be a moon."
"Paradise!" exclaimed Androvsky.
He sprang upon his horse and pulled up the reins. Domini said no more.
They had started late. It was night when they reached Ain-la-Hammam.
As they drew near Domini looked before her eagerly through the pale
gloom that hung over the sand. She saw no village, only a very small
grove of palms and near it the outline of a bordj. The place was set
in a cup of the Sahara. All around it rose low hummocks of sand. On
two or three of them were isolated clumps of palms. Here the eyes
roamed over no vast distances. There was little suggestion of space.
She drew up her horse on one of the hummocks and gazed down. She heard
doves murmuring in their soft voices among the trees. The tents were
pitched near the bordj.
"What does Madame think?" asked Batouch. "Does Madame agree with the
"It is a strange little place," she answered.
She listened to the voices of the doves. A dog barked by the bordj.
"It is almost like a hiding-place," she added.
Androvsky said nothing, but he, too, was gazing intently at the trees
below them, he, too, was listening to the voices of the doves. After a
moment he looked at her.
"Domini," he whispered. "Here--won't you--won't you let me touch your
hand again here?"
"Come, Boris," she answered. "It is late."
They rode down into Ain-la-Hammam.
The tents had all been pitched near together on the south of the
bordj, and separated by it from the tiny oasis. Opposite to them was a
Cafe Maure of the humblest kind, a hovel of baked earth and brushwood,
with earthen divans and a coffee niche. Before this was squatting a
group of five dirty desert men, the sole inhabitants of Ain-la-Hammam.
Just before dinner Domini gave an order to Batouch, and, while they
were dining, Androvsky noticed that their people were busy unpegging
the two sleeping-tents.
"What are they doing?" he said to Domini, uneasily. In his present
condition everything roused in him anxiety. In every unusual action he
discerned the beginning of some tragedy which might affect his life.
"I told Batouch to put our tents on the other side of the bordj," she
"Yes. But why?"
"I thought that to-night it would be better if we were a little more
alone than we are here, just opposite to that Cafe Maure, and with the
servants. And on the other side there are the palms and the water. And
the doves were talking there as we rode in. When we have finished
dinner we can go and sit there and be quiet."
"Together," he said.
An eager light had come into his eyes. He leaned forward towards her
over the little table and stretched out his hand.
"Yes, together," she said.
But she did not take his hand.
"Domini!" he said, still keeping his hand on the table, "Domini!"
An expression, that was like an expression of agony, flitted over her
face and died away, leaving it calm.
"Let us finish," she said quietly. "Look, they have taken the tents!
In a moment we can go."
The doves were silent. The night was very still in this nest of the
Sahara. Ouardi brought them coffee, and Batouch came to say that the
tents were ready.
"We shall want nothing more to-night, Batouch," Domini said. "Don't
Batouch glanced towards the Cafe Maure. A red light gleamed through
its low doorway. One or two Arabs were moving within. Some of the camp
attendants had joined the squatting men without. A noise of busy
voices reached the tents.
"To-night, Madame," Batouch said proudly, "I am going to tell stories
from the /Thousand and One Nights/. I am going to tell the story of
the young Prince of the Indies, and the story of Ganem, the Slave of
Love. It is not often that in Ain-la-Hammam a poet--"
"No, indeed. Go to them, Batouch. They must be impatient for you."
Batouch smiled broadly.
"Madame begins to understand the Arabs," he rejoined. "Madame will
soon be as the Arabs."
"Go, Batouch. Look--they are longing for you."
She pointed to the desert men, who were gesticulating and gazing
towards the tents.
"It is better so, Madame," he answered. "They know that I am here only
for one night, and they are eager as the hungry jackal is eager for
food among the yellow dunes of the sand."
He threw his burnous over his shoulder and moved away smiling, and
murmuring in a luscious voice the first words of Ganem, the Slave of
"Let us go now, Boris," Domini said.
He got up at once from the table, and they walked together round the
On its further side there was no sign of life. No traveller was
resting there that night, and the big door that led into the inner
court was closed and barred. The guardian had gone to join the Arabs
at the Cafe Maure. Between the shadow cast by the bordj and the shadow
cast by the palm trees stood the two tents on a patch of sand. The
oasis was enclosed in a low earth wall, along the top of which was a
ragged edging of brushwood. In this wall were several gaps. Through
one, opposite to the tents, was visible a shallow pool of still water
by which tall reeds were growing. They stood up like spears,
absolutely motionless. A frog was piping from some hidden place,
giving forth a clear flute-like note that suggested glass. It reminded
Domini of her ride into the desert at Beni-Mora to see the moon rise.
On that night Androvsky had told her that he was going away. That had
been the night of his tremendous struggle with himself. When he had
spoken she had felt a sensation as if everything that supported her in
the atmosphere of life and of happiness had foundered. And now--now
she was going to speak to him--to tell him--what was she going to tell
him? How much could she, dared she, tell him? She prayed silently to
be given strength.
In the clear sky the young moon hung. Beneath it, to the left, was one
star like an attendant, the star of Venus. The faint light of the moon
fell upon the water of the pool. Unceasingly the frog uttered its
Domini stood for a moment looking at the water listening. Then she
glanced up at the moon and the solitary star. Androvsky stood by her.
"Shall we--let us sit on the wall, where the gap is," she said. "The
water is beautiful, beautiful with that light on it, and the palms--
palms are always beautiful, especially at night. I shall never love
any other trees as I love palm trees."
"Nor I," he answered.
They sat down on the wall. At first they did not speak any more. The
stillness of the water, the stillness of reeds and palms, was against
speech. And the little flute-like note that came to them again and
again at regular intervals was like a magical measuring of the silence
of the night in the desert. At last Domini said, in a low voice:
"I heard that note on the night when I rode out of Beni-Mora to see
the moon rise in the desert. Boris, you remember that night?"
"Yes," he answered.
He was gazing at the pool, with his face partly averted from her, one
hand on the wall, the other resting on his knee.
"You were brave that night, Boris," she said.
"I--I wished to be--I tried to be. And if I had been--"
He stopped, then went on: "If I had been, Domini, really brave, if I
had done what I meant to do that night, what would our lives have been
"I don't know. We mustn't think of that to-night. We must think of the
future. Boris, there's no life, no real life without bravery. No man
or woman is worthy of living who is not brave."
He said nothing.
"Boris, let us--you and I--be worthy of living to-night--and in the
"Give me your hand then," he answered. "Give it me, Domini."
But she did not give it to him. Instead she went on, speaking a little
"Boris, don't rely too much on my strength. I am only a woman, and I
have to struggle. I have had to struggle more than perhaps you will
ever know. You--must not make--make things impossible for me. I am
trying--very hard--to--I'm--you must not touch me to-night, Boris."
She drew a little farther away from him. A faint breath of air made
the leaves of the palm trees rustle slightly, made the reeds move for
an instant by the pool. He laid his hand again on the wall from which
he had lifted it. There was a pleading sound in her voice which made
him feel as if it were speaking close against his heart.
"I said I would tell you to-night where we are going."
"Tell me now."
"We are going back to Beni-Mora. We are not very far off from Beni-
Mora to-night--not very far."
"We are going to Beni-Mora!" he repeated in a dull voice. "We are----"
He sat up on the wall, looking straight into her face.
"Why?" he said. His voice was sharp now, sharp with fear.
"Boris, do you want to be at peace, not with me, but with God? Do you
want to get rid of your burden of misery, which increases--I know it--
day by day?"
"How can I?" he said hopelessly.
"Isn't expiation the only way? I think it is."
"Expiation! How--how can--I can never expiate my sin."
"There's no sin that cannot be expiated. God isn't merciless. Come
back with me to Beni-Mora. That little church--where you married me--
come back to it with me. You could not confess to the--to Father
Beret. I feel as if I knew why. Where you married me you will--you
must--make your confession."
"To the priest who--to Father Roubier!"
There was fierce protest in his voice.
"It does not matter who is the priest who will receive your
confession. Only make it there--make it in the church at Beni-Mora
where you married me."
"That was your purpose! That is where you are taking me! I can't go, I
won't! Domini, think what you are doing! You are asking too much--"
"I feel that God is asking that of you. Don't refuse Him."
"I cannot go--at Beni-Mora where we--where everything will remind
"Ah, don't you think I shall feel it too? Don't you think I shall
He felt horribly ashamed when she said that, bowed down with an
overwhelming weight of shame.
"But our lives"--he stammered--"but--if I go--afterwards--if I make my
"Isn't it enough to think of that one thing? Isn't it better to put
everything else, every other thought, away? It seems so clear to me
that we should go to Beni-Mora. I feel as if I had been told--as a
child is told to do something by its father."
She looked up into the clear sky.
"I am sure I have been told," she added. "I know I have."
There was a long silence between them. Androvsky felt that he did not
dare to break it. Something in Domini's face and voice cast out from
him the instinct of revolt, of protest. He began to feel exhausted,
without power, like a sick man who is being carried by bearers in a
litter, and who looks at the landscape through which he is passing
with listless eyes, and who scarcely has the force to care whither he
is being borne.
"Domini," he said at last, and his voice sounded very tired, "if you
say I must go to Beni-Mora I will go. I have done you a great wrong
"Don't think of me any more," she said. "Think--think as I do--of--
of---- What am I? I have loved you, I shall always love you, but I am
as you are, here for a little while, elsewhere for all eternity. You
told him--that man in the monastery--that we are shadows set in a
world of shadows."
"That was a lie," he interrupted, and the weariness had gone out of
his voice. "When I said that I had never loved, I had never loved
"Or was it a half-truth? Aren't we, perhaps, shadow now in comparison
--comparison to what we shall be? Isn't this world, even this--this
desert, this pool with the light on it, this silence of the night
around us--isn't all this a shadow in comparison to the world where we
are going, you and I? Boris, I think if we are brave now we shall be
together in that world. But if we are cowards now, I think, I am sure,
that in that world--the real world--we shall be separated for ever.
You and I, whatever we may be, whatever we may have done, at least are
one thing--we are believers. We don't think this is all. If we did it
would be different. But we can't change the truth that is in our
souls, and as we can't change it we must live by it, we must act by
it. We can't do anything else. I can't--and you? Don't you feel, don't
you know, that you can't?"
"To-night," he said, "I feel that I know nothing--nothing except that
I am suffering."
His voice broke on the last words. Tears were shining in his eyes.
After a long silence he said:
"Domini, take me where you will. If it is to Beni-Mora I will go. But
"Afterwards----" she said.
Then she stopped.
The little note of the frog sounded again and again by the still water
among the reeds. The moon was higher in the sky. "Don't let us think
of afterwards, Boris," she said at length. "That song we have heard
together, that song we love--'No one but God and I knows what is in my
heart.' I hear it now so often, always almost. It seems to gather
meaning, it seems to--God knows what is in your heart and mine. He
will take care of the--afterwards. Perhaps in our hearts already He
has put a secret knowledge of the end."
"Has He--has He put it--that knowledge--into yours?"
"Hush!" she said.
They spoke no more that night.
The caravan of Domini and Androvsky was leaving Arba.
Already the tents and the attendants, with the camels and the mules,
were winding slowly along the plain through the scrub in the direction
of the mountains, and the dark shadow which indicated the oasis of
Beni-Mora. Batouch was with them. Domini and Androvsky were going to
be alone on this last stage of their desert journey. They had mounted
their horses before the great door of the bordj, said goodbye to the
Sheikh of Arba, scattered some money among the ragged Arabs gathered
to watch them go, and cast one last look behind them.
In that mutual, instinctive look back they were both bidding a silent
farewell to the desert, that had sheltered their passion, surely taken
part in the joy of their love, watched the sorrow and the terror grow
in it to the climax at Amara, and was now whispering to them a faint
and mysterious farewell.
To Domini the desert had always been as a great and significant
personality, a personality that had called her persistently to come to
it. Now, as she turned on her horse, she felt as if it were calling
her no longer, as if its mission to her were accomplished, as if its
voice had sunk into a deep and breathless silence. She wondered if
Androvsky felt this too, but she did not ask him. His face was pale
and severe. His eyes stared into the distance. His hands lay on his
horse's neck like tired things with no more power to grip and hold.
His lips were slightly parted, and she heard the sound of his breath
coming and going like the breath of a man who is struggling. This
sound warned her not to try his strength or hers.
"Come, Boris," she said, and her voice held none of the passionate
regret that was in her heart, "we mustn't linger, or it will be night
before we reach Beni-Mora."
"Let it be night," he said. "Dark night!"
The horses moved slowly on, descending the hill on which stood the
"Dark--dark night!" he said again.
She said nothing. They rode into the plain. When they were there he
"Domini, do you understand--do you realise?"
"What, Boris?" she asked quietly.
"All that we are leaving to-day?"
"Yes, I understand."
"Are we--are we leaving it for ever?"
"We must not think of that."
"How can we help it? What else can we think of? Can one govern the
"Surely, if we can govern the heart."
"Sometimes," he said, "sometimes I wonder----"
He looked at her. Something in her face made it impossible for him to
go on, to say what he had been going to say. But she understood the
"If you can wonder, Boris," she said, "you don't know me, you don't
know me at all!"
"Domini," he said, "I don't wonder. But sometimes I understand your
strength, and sometimes it seems to me scarcely human, scarcely the
strength of a woman."
She lifted her whip and pointed to the dark shadow far away.
"I can just see the tower," she said. "Can't you?"
"I will not look," he said. "I cannot. If you can, you are stronger
than I. When I remember that it was on that tower you first spoke to
me--oh, Domini, if we could only go back! It is in our power. We have
only to draw a rein and--and--"
"I look at the tower," she said, "as once I looked at the desert. It
calls us, the shadow of the palm trees calls us, as once the desert
"But the voice--what a different voice! Can you listen to it?"
"I have been listening to it ever since we left Amara. Yes, it is a
different voice, but we must obey it as we obeyed the voice of the
desert. Don't you feel that?"
"If I do it is because you tell me to feel it; you tell me that I must
His words seemed to hurt her. An expression of pain came into her
"Boris," she said, "don't make me regret too terribly that I ever came
into your life. When you speak like that I feel almost as if you were
putting me in the place of--of--I feel as if you were depending upon
me for everything that you are doing, as if you were letting your own
will fall asleep. The desert brings dreams. I know that. But we, you
and I, we must not dream any more."
"A dream, you call it--the life we have lived together, our desert
"Boris, I only mean that we must live strongly now, act strongly now,
that we must be brave. I have always felt that there was strength in
"Strength!" he said bitterly.
"Yes. Otherwise I could never have loved you. Don't ever prove to me
that I was utterly wrong. I can bear a great deal. But that--I don't
feel as if I could bear that."
After a moment he answered:
"I will try to give you nothing more to bear for me."
And he lifted his eyes and fixed them upon the tower with a sort of
stern intentness, as a man looks at something cruel, terrible.
She saw him do this.
"Let us ride quicker," she said. "To-night we must be in Beni-Mora."
He said nothing, but he touched his horse with his heel. His eyes were
always fixed upon the tower, as if they feared to look at the desert
any more. She understood that when he had said "I will try to give you
nothing more to bear for me," he had not spoken idly. He had waked up
from the egoism of his despair. He had been able to see more clearly
into her heart, to feel more rightly what she was feeling than he had
before. As she watched him watching the tower, she had a sensation
that a bond, a new bond between them, was chaining them together in a
new way. Was it not a bond that would be strong and lasting, that the
future, whatever it held, would not be able to break? Ties, sacred
ties, that had bound them together might, must, be snapped asunder.
And the end was not yet. She saw, as she gazed at the darkness of the
palms of Beni-Mora, a greater darkness approaching, deeper than any
darkness of palms, than any darkness of night. But now she saw also a
ray of light in the gloom, the light of the dawning strength, the
dawning unselfishness in Androvsky. And she resolved to fix her eyes
upon it as he fixed his eyes upon the tower.
Just after sunset they rode into Beni-Mora in advance of the camp,
which they had passed upon their way. To the right were the trees of
Count Anteoni's garden. Domini felt them, but she did not look towards
them. Nor did Androvsky. They kept their eyes fixed upon the distance
of the white road. Only when they reached the great hotel, now closed
and deserted, did she glance away. She could not pass the tower
without seeing it. But she saw it through a mist of tears, and her
hands trembled upon the reins they held. For a moment she felt that
she must break down, that she had no more strength left in her. But
they came to the statue of the Cardinal holding the double cross
towards the desert like a weapon. And she looked at it and saw the
"Boris," she whispered, "there is the Christ. Let us think only of
She saw him look at it steadily.
"You remember," she said, at the bottom of the avenue of cypresses--at
El-Largani--/Factus obediens usque ad mortem Crucis/?"
"We can be obedient too. Let us be obedient too."
When she said that, and looked at him, Androvsky felt as if he were on
his knees before her, as he was upon his knees in the garden when he
could not go away. But he felt, too, that then, though he had loved
her, he had not known how to love her, how to love anyone. She had
taught him now. The lesson sank into his heart like a sword and like
balm. It was as if he were slain and healed by the same stroke.
That night, as Domini lay in the lonely room in the hotel, with the
French windows open to the verandah, she heard the church clock chime
the hour and the distant sound of the African hautboy in the street of
the dancers, she heard again the two voices. The hautboy was barbarous
and provocative, but she thought that it was no more shrill with a
persistent triumph. Presently the church bell chimed again.
Was it the bell of the church of Beni-Mora, or the bell of the chapel
of El-Largani? Or was it not rather the voice of the great religion to
which she belonged, to which Androvsky was returning?
When it ceased she whispered to herself, "/Factus obediens usque ad
mortem Crucis/." And with these words upon her lips towards dawn she
fell asleep. They had dined upstairs in the little room that had
formerly been Domini's salon, and had not seen Father Roubier, who
always came to the hotel to take his evening meal. In the morning,
after they had breakfasted, Androvsky said:
"Domini, I will go. I will go now."
He got up and stood by her, looking down at her. In his face there was
a sort of sternness, a set expression.
"To Father Roubier, Boris?" she said.
"Yes. Before I go won't you--won't you give me your hand?"
She understood all the agony of spirit he was enduring, all the shame
against which he was fighting. She longed to spring up, to take him in
her arms, to comfort him as only the woman he loves and who loves him
can comfort a man, without words, by the pressure of her arms, the
pressure of her lips, the beating of her heart against his heart. She
longed to do this so ardently that she moved restlessly, looking up at
him with a light in her eyes that he had never seen in them before,
not even when they watched the fire dying down at Arba. But she did
not lift her hand to his.
"Boris," she said, "go. God will be with you."
After a moment she added:
"And all my heart."
He stood, as if waiting, a long time. She had ceased from moving and
had withdrawn her eyes from his. In his soul a voice was saying, "If
she does not touch you now she will never touch you again." And he
waited. He could not help waiting.
"Boris," she whispered, "good-bye."
"Good-bye?" he said.
"Come to me--afterwards. Come to me in the garden. I shall be there
where we--I shall be there waiting for you."
He went out without another word.
When he was gone she went on to the verandah quickly and looked over
the parapet. She saw him come out from beneath the arcade and walk
slowly across the road to the little gate of the enclosure before the
house of the priest. As he lifted his hands to open the gate there was
the sound of a bark, and she saw Bous-Bous run out with a manner of
stern inquiry, which quickly changed to joyful welcome as he
recognised an old acquaintance. Androvsky bent down, took up the
little dog in his arms, and, holding him, walked to the house door. In
a moment it was opened and he went in. Then Domini set out towards the
garden, avoiding the village street, and taking a byway which skirted
the desert. She walked quickly. She longed to be within the shadows of
the garden behind the white wall. She did not feel much, think much,
as she walked. Without self-consciously knowing it she was holding all
her nature, the whole of herself, fiercely in check. She did not look
about her, did not see the sunlit reaches of the desert, or the walls
of the houses of Beni-Mora, or the palm trees. Only when she had
passed the hotel and the negro village and turned to the left, to the
track at the edge of which the villa of Count Anteoni stood, did she
lift her eyes from the ground. They rested on the white arcade framing
the fierce blue of the cloudless sky. She stopped short. Her nature
seemed to escape from the leash by which she had held it in with a
rush, to leap forward, to be in the garden and in the past, in the
past with its passion and its fiery hopes, its magnificent looking
forward, its holy desires of joy that would crown her woman's life, of
love that would teach her all the depth, and the height, and the force
and the submission of her womanhood. And then, from that past, it
strove on into the present. The shock was as the shock of battle.
There were noises in her ears, voices clamouring in her heart. All her
pulses throbbed like hammers, and then suddenly she felt as weak as a
little sick child, and as if she must lie down there on the dust of
the white road in the sunshine, lie down and die at the edge of the
desert that had treated her cruelly, that had slain the hopes it had
given to her and brought into her heart this terrible despair.
For now she knew a moment of utter despair, in which all things seemed
to dissolve into atoms and sink down out of her sight. She stood
quivering in blackness. She stood absolutely alone, more absolutely
alone than any woman had ever been, than any human being had ever
been. She seemed presently, as the blackness faded into something
pale, like a ghastly twilight, to see herself--her wraith, as it were
--standing in a vast landscape, vast as the desert, companionless,
lost, forgotten, out of mind, watching for something that would never
come, listening for some voice that was hushed in eternal silence.
That was to be her life, she thought--could she face it? Could she
endure it? And everything within her said to her that she could not.
And then, just then, when she felt that she must sink down and give up
the battle of life, she seemed to see by her side a shape, a little
shape like a child. And it lifted up a hand to her hand.
And she knew that the vast landscape was God's garden, the Garden of
Allah, and that no day, no night could ever pass without God walking
Hearing a knock upon the great gate of the garden Smain uncurled
himself on his mat within the tent, rose lazily to his feet, and,
without a rose, strolled languidly to open to the visitor. Domini
stood without. When he saw her he smiled quietly, with no surprise.
"Madame has returned?"
Domini smiled at him, but her lips were trembling, and she said
Smain observed her with a dawning of curiosity.
"Madame is changed," he said at length. "Madame looks tired. The sun
is hot in the desert now. It is better here in the garden."
With an effort she controlled herself.
"Yes, Smain," she answered, "it is better here. But I can not stay
"You are going away?"
"Yes, I am going away."
She saw more quiet questions fluttering on his lips, and added:
"And now I want to walk in the garden alone."
He waved his hand towards the trees.
"It is all for Madame. Monsieur the Count has always said so. But
"He is in Beni-Mora. He is coming presently to fetch me."
Then she turned away and walked slowly across the great sweep of sand
towards the trees and was taken by their darkness. She heard again the
liquid bubbling of the hidden waterfall, and was again companioned by
the mystery of this desert Paradise, but it no longer whispered to her
of peace for her. It murmured only its own personal peace and
accentuated her own personal agony and struggle. All that it had been
it still was, but all that she had been in it was changed. And she
felt the full terror of Nature's equanimity environing the fierce and
tortured lives of men.
As she walked towards the deepest recesses of the garden along the
winding tracks between the rills she had no sensation of approaching
the hidden home of the Geni of the garden. Yet she remembered acutely
all her first feelings there. Not one was forgotten. They returned to
her like spectres stealing across the sand. They lurked like spectres
among the dense masses of the trees. She strove not to see their pale
shapes, not to hear their terrible voices. She strove to draw calm
once more from this infinite calm of silently-growing things aspiring
towards the sun. But with each step she took the torment in her heart
increased. At last she came to the deeper darkness and the blanched
sand, and saw pine needles strewed about her feet. Then she stood
still, instinctively listening for a sound that would complete the
magic of the garden and her own despair. She waited for it. She even
felt, strangely, that she wanted, that she needed it--the sound of the
flute of Larbi playing his amorous tune. But his flute to-day was
silent. Had he fallen out of an old love and not yet found a new? or
had he, perhaps, gone away? or was he dead? For a long time she stood
there, thinking about Larbi. He and his flute and his love were
mingled with her life in the desert. And she felt that she could not
leave the desert without bidding them farewell.
But the silence lasted and she went on and came to the /fumoir/. She
went into it at once and sat down. She was going to wait for Androvsky
Her mind was straying curiously to-day. Suddenly she found herself
thinking of the fanatical religious performance she had seen with Hadj
on the night when she had ridden out to watch the moon rise. She saw
in imagination the bowing bodies, the foaming mouths, the glassy eyes
of the young priests of the Sahara. She saw the spikes behind their
eyeballs, the struggling scorpions descending into their throats, the
flaming coals under their arm-pits, the nails driven into their heads.
She heard them growling as they saw the glass, like hungry beasts at
the sight of meat. And all this was to them religion. This madness was
their conception of worship. A voice seemed to whisper to her: "And
It was like the voice that whispered to Androvsky in the cemetery of
El-Largani, "Come out with me into that world, that beautiful world
which God made for men. Why do you reject it?"
For a moment she saw all religions, all the practices, the
renunciations of the religions of the world, as varying forms of
madness. She compared the self-denial of the monk with the fetish
worship of the savage. And a wild thrill of something that was almost
like joy rushed through her, the joy that sometimes comes to the
unbelievers when they are about to commit some act which they feel
would be contrary to God's will if there were a God. It was a thrill
of almost insolent human emancipation. The soul cried out: "I have no
master. When I thought I had a master I was mad. Now I am sane."
But it passed almost as it came, like a false thing slinking from the
sunlight, and Domini bowed her head in the obscurity of Count
Anteoni's thinking-place and returned to her true self. That moment
had been like the moment upon the tower when she saw below her the
Jewess dancing upon the roof for the soldiers, a black speck settling
for an instant upon whiteness, then carried away by a purifying wind.
She knew that she would always be subject to such moments so long as
she was a human being, that there would always be in her blood
something that was self-willed. Otherwise, would she not be already in
Paradise? She sat and prayed for strength in the battle of life, that
could never be anything else but a battle.
At last something within her told her to look up, to look out through
the window-space into the garden. She had not heard a step, but she
knew that Androvsky was approaching, and, as she looked up, she
prepared herself for a sight that would be terrible. She remembered
his face when he came to bid her good-bye in the garden, and she
feared to see his face now. But she schooled herself to be strong, for
herself and for him.
He was near her on the path coming towards her. As she saw him she
uttered a little cry and stood up. An immense surprise came to her,
followed in a moment by an immense joy--the greatest joy, she thought,
that she had ever experienced. For she looked on a face in which she
saw for the first time a pale dawning of peace. There was sadness in
it, there was awe, but there was a light of calm, such as sometimes
settles upon the faces of men who have died quietly without agony or
fear. And she felt fully, as she saw it, the rapture of having refused
cowardice and grasped the hand of bravery. Directly afterwards there
came to her a sensation of wonder that at this moment of their lives
she and Androvsky should be capable of a feeling of joy, of peace.
When the wonder passed it was as if she had seen God and knew for ever
the meaning of His divine compensations.
Androvsky came to the doorway of the /fumoir/ without looking up,
stood still there--just where Count Anteoni had stood during his first
interview with Domini--and said:
"Domini, I have been to the priest. I have made my confession."
"Yes," she said. "Yes, Boris!"
He came into the /fumoir/ and sat down near her, but not close to her,
on one of the divans. Now the sad look in his face had deepened and
the peace seemed to be fading. She had thought of the dawn--that pale
light which is growing into day. Now she thought of the twilight which
is fading into night. And the terrible knowledge struck her, "I am the
troubler of his peace. Without me only could he ever regain fully the
peace which he has lost."
"Domini," he said, looking up at her, "you know the rest. You meant it
to be as it will be when we left Amara."
"Was there any other way? Was there any other possible life for us--
for you--for me?"
"For you!" he said, and there was a sound almost of despair in his
voice. "But what is to be your life? I have never protected you--you
have protected me. I have never been strong for you--you have been
strong for me. But to leave you--all alone, Domini, must I do that?
Must I think of you out in the world alone?"
For a moment she was tempted to break her silence, to tell him the
truth, that she would perhaps not be alone, that another life, sprung
from his and hers, was coming to be with her, was coming to share the
great loneliness that lay before her. But she resisted the temptation
and only said:
"Do not think of me, Boris."
"You tell me not to think of you!" he said with an almost fierce
wonder. "Do you--do you wish me not to think of you?"
"What I wish--that is so little, but--no, Boris, I can't say--I don't
think I could ever truly say that I wish you to think no more of me.
After all, one has a heart, and I think if it's worth anything it must
be often a rebellious heart. I know mine is rebellious. But if you
don't think too much of me--when you are there--"
She paused, and they looked at each other for a moment in silence.
Then she continued:
"Surely it will be easier for you, happier for you."
Androvsky clenched his right hand on the divan and turned round till
he was facing her full. His eyes blazed.
"Domini," he said, "you are truthful. I'll be truthful to you. Till
the end of my life I'll think of you--every day, every hour. If it
were mortal sin to think of you I would commit it--yes, Domini,
deliberately, I would commit it. But--God doesn't ask so much of us;
no, God doesn't. I've made my confession. I know what I must do. I'll
do it. You are right--you are always right--you are guided, I know
that. But I will think of you. And I'll tell you something--don't
shirk from it, because it's truth, the truth of my soul, and you love
Suddenly he got up from the divan and stood before her, looking down
at her steadily.
"Domini, I can't regret that I have seen you, that we have been
together, that we have loved each other, that we do love each other
for ever. I can't regret it; I can't even try or wish to. I can't
regret that I have learned from you the meaning of life. I know that
God has punished me for what I have done. In my love for you--till I
told you the truth, that other truth--I never had a moment of peace--
of exultation, yes, of passionate exultation; but never, never a
moment of peace. For always, even in the most beautiful moments, there
has been agony for me. For always I have known that I was sinning
against God and you, against myself, my eternal vows. And yet now I
tell you, Domini, as I have told God since I have been able to pray
again, that I am glad, thankful, that I have loved you, been loved by
you. Is it wicked? I don't know. I can scarcely even care, because
it's true. And how can I deny the truth, strive against truth? I am as
I am, and I am that. God has made me that. God will forgive me for
being as I am. I'm not afraid. I believe--I dare to believe--that He
wishes me to think of you always till the end of my life. I dare to
believe that He would almost hate me if I could ever cease from loving
you. That's my other confession--my confession to you. I was born,
perhaps, to be a monk. But I was born, too, that I might love you and
know your love, your beauty, your tenderness, your divinity. If I had
not known you, if I had died a monk, a good monk who had never denied
his vows, I should have died--I feel it, Domini--in a great, a
terrible ignorance. I should have known the goodness of God, but I
should never have known part, a beautiful part, of His goodness. For I
should never have known the goodness that He has put into you. He has
taught me through you. He has tortured me through you; yes, but
through you, too, He has made me understand Him. When I was in the
monastery, when I was at peace, when I lost myself in prayer, when I
was absolutely pure, absolutely--so I thought--the child of God, I
never really knew God. Now, Domini, now I know Him. In the worst
moments of the new agony that I must meet at least I shall always have
that help. I shall always feel that I know what God is. I shall
always, when I think of you, when I remember you, be able to say, 'God
He was silent, but his face still spoke to her, his eyes read her
eyes. And in that moment at last they understood each other fully and
for ever. "It was written"--that was Domini's thought--"it was written
by God." Far away the church bell chimed.
"Boris," Domini said quietly, "we must go to-day. We must leave Beni-
Mora. You know that?"
"Yes," he said, "I know."
He looked out into the garden. The almost fierce resolution, that had
something in it of triumph, faded from him.
"Yes," he said, "this is the end, the real end, for--there, it will
all be different--it will be terrible."
"Let us sit here for a little while together," Domini said, "and be
quiet. Is it like the garden of El-Largani, Boris?"
"No. But when I first came here, when I saw the white walls, the great
door, when I saw the poor Arabs gathered there to receive alms, it
made me feel almost as if I were at El-Largani. That was why----" he
"I understand, Boris, I understand everything now."
And then they were silent. Such a silence as theirs was then could
never be interpreted to others. In it the sorrows, the aspirations,
the struggles, the triumphs, the torturing regrets, the brave
determinations of poor, great, feeble, noble humanity were enclosed as
in a casket--a casket which contains many kinds of jewels, but surely
none that are not precious.
And the garden listened, and beyond the garden the desert listened--
that other garden of Allah. And in this garden was not Allah, too,
listening to this silence of his children, this last mutual silence of
theirs in the garden where they had wandered, where they had loved,
where they had learned a great lesson and drawn near to a great
They might have sat thus for hours; they had lost all count of time.
But presently, in the distance among the trees, there rose a light,
frail sound that struck into both their hearts like a thin weapon. It
was the flute of Larbi, and it reminded them--of what did it not
remind them? All their passionate love of the body, all their
lawlessness, all the joy of liberty and of life, of the barbaric life
that is liberty, all their wandering in the great spaces of the sun,
were set before them in Larbi's fluttering tune, that was like the
call of a siren, the call of danger, the call of earth and of earthly
things, summoning them to abandon the summons of the spirit. Domini
got up swiftly.
"Come, Boris," she said, without looking at him.
He obeyed her and rose to his feet.
"Let us go to the wall," she said, "and look out once more on the
desert. It must be nearly noon. Perhaps--perhaps we shall hear the
call to prayer."
They walked down the winding alleys towards the edge of the garden.
The sound of the flute of Larbi died away gradually into silence. Soon
they saw before them the great spaces of the Sahara flooded with the
blinding glory of the summer sunlight. They stood and looked out over
it from the shelter of some pepper trees. No caravans were passing. No
Arabs were visible. The desert seemed utterly empty, given over,
naked, to the dominion of the sun. While they stood there the nasal
voice of the Mueddin rose from the minaret of the mosque of Beni-Mora,
uttered its fourfold cry, and died away.
"Boris," Domini said, "that is for the Arabs, but for us, too, for we
belong to the garden of Allah as they do, perhaps even more than
She remembered how, long ago, Count Anteoni had stood there with her
and repeated the words of the angel to the Prophet, and she murmured
"O thou that art covered, arise, and magnify thy Lord, and purify thy
clothes, and depart from uncleanness."
Then, standing side by side, they prayed, looking at the desert.
In the evening of that day they left Beni-Mora.
Domini wished to go quietly, but, knowing the Arabs, she feared it
would be impossible. Nevertheless, when she paid Batouch in the hotel
and thanked him for all his services, she said:
"We'll say adieu here, Batouch."
The poet displayed a large surprise.
"But I will accompany Madame to the station. I will--"
"It is not necessary."
Batouch looked offended but obstinate. His ample person became almost
"If I am not at the station, Madame, what will Hadj think, and Ali,
and Ouardi, and--"
"They will be there?"
"Of course, Madame. Where else should they be? Does Madame wish to
leave us like a thief in the night, or like--"
"No, no, Batouch. I am very grateful to you all, but especially to
Batouch began to smile.
"Madame has entered into our hearts as no other stranger has ever
done," he remarked. "Madame understands the Arabs. We shall all come
to say /au revoir/ and to wish Madame and Monsieur a happy journey."
For the moment the irony of her situation struck Domini so forcibly
that she could say nothing. She only looked at Batouch in silence.
"What is it? But I know. Madame is sad at leaving the desert, at
"Yes, Batouch. I am sad at leaving Beni-Mora."
"But Madame will return?"
"I know. The desert has a spell. He who has once seen the desert must
see it again. The desert calls and its voice is always heard. Madame
will hear it when she is far away, and some day she will feel, 'I must
come back to the land of the sun and to the beautiful land of
"I shall see you at the station, Batouch," Domini said quickly. "Good-
bye till then."
The train for Tunis started at sundown, in order that the travellers
might avoid the intense heat of the day. All the afternoon they kept
within doors. The Arabs were sleeping in dark rooms. The gardens were
deserted. Domini could not sleep. She sat near the French window that
opened on to the verandah and said a silent good-bye to life. For that
was what she felt--that life was leaving her, life with its intensity,
its fierce meaning. She had come out of a sort of death to find life
in Beni-Mora, and now she felt that she was going back again to
something that would be like death. After her strife there came a
numbness of the spirit, a heavy dullness. Time passed and she sat
there without moving. Sometimes she looked at the trunks lying on the
floor ready for the journey, at the labels on which was written "Tunis
/via/ Constantine." And then she tried to imagine what it would be
like to travel in the train after her long travelling in the desert,
and what it would be like to be in a city. But she could not. The heat
was intense. Perhaps it affected her mind through her body. Faintly,
far down in her mind and heart, she knew that she was wishing, even
longing, to realise all that these last hours in Beni-Mora meant, to
gather up in them all the threads of her life and her sensations
there, to survey, as from a height, the panorama of the change that
had come to her in Africa. But she was frustrated.
The hours fled, and she remained cold, listless. Often she was hardly
thinking at all. When the Arab servant came in to tell her that it was
time to start for the station she got up slowly and looked at him
"Time to go already?" she asked.
"Yes, Madame. I have told Monsieur."
At this moment Androvsky came into the room.
"The carriage is waiting," he said.
She felt almost as if a stranger was speaking to her.
"I am ready," she said.
And without looking round the room she went downstairs and got into
They drove to the station without speaking. She had not seen Father
Roubier. Androvsky took the tickets. When they came out upon the
platform they found there a small crowd of Arab friends, with Batouch
in command. Among them were the servants who had accompanied them upon
their desert journey, and Hadj. He came forward smiling to shake
hands. When she saw him Domini remembered Irena, and, forgetting that
it is not etiquette to inquire after an Arab's womenfolk, she said:
"Ah, Hadj, and are you happy now? How is Irena?"
Hadj's face fell, and he showed his pointed teeth in a snarl. For a
moment he hesitated, looking round at the other Arabs. Then he said:
"I am always happy, Madame."
Domini saw that she had made a mistake. She took out her purse and
gave him five francs.
"A parting present," she said.
Hadj shook his head with recovered cheerfulness, tucked in his chin
and laughed. Domini turned away, shook hands with all her dark
acquaintances, and climbed up into the train, followed by Androvsky.
Batouch sprang upon the step as the porter shut the door.
"Madame!" he exclaimed.
"What is it, Batouch?"
"To-day you have put Hadj to shame."
He smiled broadly.
"I? How? What have I done?"
"Irena is dancing at Onargla, far away in the desert beyond Amara."
"She could not live shut up in a room. She could not wear the veil for
"She has divorced him, Madame. It is easy here. For a few francs one
The whistle sounded. The train jerked. Batouch seized her hand, seized
Androvsky's, sprang back to the platform.
"Good-bye, Batouch! Good-bye, Ouardi! Good-bye, Smain!"
The train moved on. As it reached the end of the platform Domini saw
an emaciated figure standing there alone, a thin face with glittering
eyes turned towards her with a glaring scrutiny. It was the sand-
diviner. He smiled at her, and his smile contracted the wound upon his
face, making it look wicked and grotesque like the face of a demon.
She sank down on the seat. For a moment, a hideous moment, she felt as
if he personified Beni-Mora, as if this smile were Beni-Mora's
farewell to her and to Androvsky.
And Irena was dancing at Onargla, far away in the desert.
She remembered the night in the dancing-house, Irena's attack upon
That love of Africa was at an end. Was not everything at an end? Yet
Larbi still played upon his flute in the garden of Count Anteoni,
still played the little tune that was as the /leit motif/ of the
eternal renewal of life. And within herself she carried God's mystery
of renewal, even she, with her numbed mind, her tired heart. She, too,
was to help to carry forward the banner of life.
She had come to Beni-Mora in the sunset, and now, in the sunset, she
was leaving it. But she did not lean from the carriage window to watch
the pageant that was flaming in the west. Instead, she shut her eyes
and remembered it as it was on that evening when they, who now were
journeying away from the desert together, had been journeying towards
it together. Strangers who had never spoken to each other. And the
evening came, and the train stole into the gorge of El-Akbara, and
still she kept her eyes closed. Only when the desert was finally left
behind, divided from them by the great wall of rock, did she look up
and speak to Androvsky.
"We met here, Boris," she said.
"Yes," he answered, "at the gate of the desert. I shall never be here
Soon the night fell around them.
* * * * * *
In the evening of the following day they reached Tunis, and drove to
the Hotel d'Orient, where they had written to engage rooms for one
night. They had expected that the city would be almost deserted by its
European inhabitants now the summer had set in, but when they drove up
to the door of the hotel the proprietor came out to inform them that,
owing to the arrival of a ship full of American tourists who,
personally conducted, were "viewing" Tunis after an excursion to the
East and to the Holy Land, he had been unable to keep for them a
private sitting-room. With many apologies he explained that all the
sitting-rooms in the house had been turned into bedrooms, but only for
one night. On the morrow the personally-conducted ones would depart
and Madame and Monsieur could have a charming salon. They listened
silently to his explanations and apologies, standing in the narrow
entrance hall, which was blocked up with piles of luggage. "Tomorrow,"
he kept on repeating, "to-morrow" all would be different.
Domini glanced at Androvsky, who stood with his head bent down,
looking on the ground.
"Shall we try another hotel?" she asked.
"If you wish," he answered in a low voice.
"It would be useless, Madame," said the proprietor. "All the hotels
are full. In the others you will not find even a bedroom."
"Perhaps we had better stay here," she said to Androvsky.
Her voice, too, was low and tired. In her heart something seemed to
say, "Do not strive any more. In the garden it was finished. Already
you are face to face with the end."
When she was alone in her small bedroom, which was full of the noises
of the street, and had washed and put on another dress, she began to
realise how much she had secretly been counting on one more evening
alone with Androvsky. She had imagined herself dining with him in
their sitting-room unwatched, sitting together afterwards, for an hour
or two, in silence perhaps, but at least alone. She had imagined a
last solitude with him with the darkness of the African night around
them. She had counted upon that. She realised it now. Her whole heart
and soul had been asking for that, believing that at least that would
be granted to her. But it was not to be. She must go down with him
into a crowd of American tourists, must--her heart sickened. It seemed
to her for a moment that if only she could have this one more evening
quietly with the man she loved she could brace herself to bear
anything afterwards, but that if she could not have it she must break
down. She felt desperate.
A gong sounded below. She did not move, though she heard it, knew what
it meant. After a few minutes there was a tap at the door.
"What is it?" she said.
"Dinner is ready, Madame," said a voice in English with a strong
Domini went to the door and opened it.
"Does Monsieur know?"
"Monsieur is already in the hall waiting for Madame."
She went down and found Androvsky.
They dined at a small table in a room fiercely lit up with electric
light and restless with revolving fans. Close to them, at an immense
table decorated with flowers, dined the American tourists. The women
wore hats with large hanging veils. The men were in travelling suits.
They looked sunburnt and gay, and talked and laughed with an intense
vivacity. Afterwards they were going in a body to see the dances of
the Almees. Androvsky shot one glance at them as he came in, then
looked away quickly. The lines near his mouth deepened. For a moment
he shut his eyes. Domini did not speak to him, did not attempt to
talk. Enveloped by the nasal uproar of the gay tourists they ate in
silence. When the short meal was over they got up and went out into
the hall. The public drawing-room opened out of it on the left. They
looked into it and saw red plush settees, a large centre table covered
with a rummage of newspapers, a Jew with a bald head writing a letter,
and two old German ladies with caps drinking coffee and knitting
"The desert!" Androvsky whispered.
Suddenly he drew away from the door and walked out into the street.
Lines of carriages stood there waiting to be hired. He beckoned to
one, a victoria with a pair of small Arab horses. When it was in front
of the hotel he said to Domini:
"Will you get in, Domini?"
She obeyed. Androvsky said to the mettse driver:
"Drive to the Belvedere. Drive round the park till I tell you to
The man whipped his horses, and they rattled down the broad street,
past the brilliantly-lighted cafes, the Cercle Militaire, the palace
of the Resident, where Zouaves were standing, turned to the left and
were soon out on a road where a tram line stretched between villas,
waste ground and flat fields. In front of them rose a hill with a
darkness of trees scattered over it. They reached it, and began to
mount it slowly. The lights of the city shone below them. Domini saw
great sloping lawns dotted with streets and by trees. Scents of hidden
flowers came to her in the night, and she heard a whirr of insects.
Still they mounted, and presently reached the top of the hill.
"Stop!" said Androvsky to the driver.
He drew up his horses.
"Wait for us here."
Androvsky got out.
"Shall we walk a little way?" he said to Domini.
She got out too, and they walked slowly along the deserted road. Below
them she saw the lights of ships gliding upon the lakes, the bright
eyes of a lighthouse, the distant lamps of scattered villages along
the shores, and, very far off, a yellow gleam that dominated the sea
beyond the lakes and seemed to watch patiently all those who came and
went, the pilgrims to and from Africa. That gleam shone in Carthage.
From the sea over the flats came to them a breeze that had a savour of
freshness, of cool and delicate life.
They walked for some time without speaking, then Domini said:
"From the cemetery of El-Largani you looked out over this, didn't you,
"Yes, Domini," he answered. "It was then that the voice spoke to me."
"It will never speak again. God will not let it speak again."
"How can you know that?"
"We are tried in the fire, Boris, but we are not burnt to death."
She said it for herself, to reassure herself, to give a little comfort
to her own soul.
"To-night I feel as if it were not so," he answered. "When we came to
the hotel it seemed--I thought that I could not go on."
"Now I do not know anything except that this is my last night with
you. And, Domini, that seems to me to be absolutely incredible
although I know it. I cannot imagine any future away from you, any
life in which I do not see you. I feel as if in parting from you I am
parting from myself, as if the thing left would be no more a man, but
only a broken husk. Can I pray without you, love God without you?"
"Best without me."
"But can I live without you, Domini? Can I wake day after day to the
sunshine, and know that I shall never see you again, and go on living?
Can I do that? I don't feel as if it could be. Perhaps, when I have
done my penance, God will have mercy."
"Perhaps He will let me die."
"Let us fix all the thoughts of our hearts on the life in which He may
let us be together once more. Look, Boris, there are lights in the
darkness, there will always be lights."
"I can't see them," he said.
She looked at him and saw that tears were running down his cheeks.
Again, on this last night of companionship, God summoned her to be
strong for him. On the edge of the hill, close to them, she saw a
Moorish temple built of marble, with narrow arches and columns, and
"Let us sit here for a moment, Boris," she said.
He followed her up the marble steps. Two or three times he stumbled,
but she did not give him her hand. They sat down between the slender
columns and looked out over the city, whose blanched domes and
minarets were faintly visible in the night. Androvsky was shaken with
"How can I part from you?" he said brokenly. "How am I to do it? How
can I--how can I? Why was I given this love for you, this terrible
thing, this crying out, this reaching out of the flesh and heart and
soul to you? Domini--Domini--what does it all mean--this mystery of
torture--this scourging of the body--this tearing in pieces of my soul
and yours? Domini, shall we know--shall we ever know?"
"I am sure we shall know, we shall all know some day, the meaning of
the mystery of pain. And then, perhaps, then surely, we shall each of
us be glad that we have suffered. The suffering will make the glory of
our happiness. Even now sometimes when I am suffering, Boris, I feel
as if there were a kind of splendour, even a kind of nobility in what
I am doing, as if I were proving my own soul, proving the force that
God has put into me. Boris, let us--you and I--learn to say in all
this terror, 'I am unconquered, I am unconquerable.'"
"I feel that I could say that, be it in the most frightful
circumstances, if only I could sometimes see you--even far away as now
I see those lights."
"You will see me in your prayers every day, and I shall see you in
"But the cry of the body, Domini, of the eyes, of the hands, to see,
to touch--it's so fierce, it's so--it's so--"
"I know, I hear it too, always. But there is another voice, which will
be strong when the other has faded into eternal silence. In all bodily
things, even the most beautiful, there is something finite. We must
reach out our poor, feeble, trembling hands to the infinite. I think
everyone who is born does that through life, often without being
conscious of it. We shall do it consciously, you and I. We shall be
able to do it because of our dreadful suffering. We shall want, we
shall have to do it, you--where you are going, and I----"
"Where will you be?"
"I don't know, I don't know. I won't think of the afterwards now, in
these last few hours--in these last----"
Her voice faltered and broke. Then the tears came to her also, and for
a while she could not see the distant lights.
Then she spoke again; she said:
"Boris, let us go now."
He got up without a word. They found the carriage and drove back to
When they reached the hotel they came into the midst of the American
tourists, who were excitedly discussing the dances they had seen, and
calling for cooling drinks to allay the thirst created by the heat of
the close rooms of Oriental houses.
Early next morning a carriage was at the door. When they had got into
it the coachman looked round.
"Where shall I drive to, Monsieur?"
Androvsky looked at him and made no reply.
"To El-Largani," Domini said.
"To the monastery, Madame?"
He whistled to his horses gaily. As they trotted on bells chimed about
their necks, chimed a merry peal to the sunshine that lay over the
land. They passed soldiers marching, and heard the call of bugles, the
rattle of drums. And each sound seemed distant and each moving figure
far away. This world of Africa, fiercely distinct in the clear air
under the cloudless sky, was unreal to them both, was vague as a
northern land wrapped in a mist of autumn. The unreal was about them.
Within themselves was the real. They sat beside each other without
speaking. Words to them now were useless things. What more had they to
say? Everything and nothing. Lifetimes would not have been long enough
for them to speak their thoughts for each other, of each other, to
speak their emotions, all that was in their minds and hearts during
that drive from the city to the monastery that stood upon the hill.
Yet did not their mutual action of that morning say all that need be
said? The silence of the Trappists surely floated out to them over the
plains and the pale waters of the bitter lakes and held them silent.
But the bells on the horses' necks rang always gaily, and the
coachman, who would presently drive Domini back alone to Tunis,
whistled and sang on his high seat.
Presently they came to a great wooden cross standing on a pedestal of
stone by the roadside at the edge of a grove of olive trees. It marked
the beginning of the domain of El-Largani. When Domini saw it she
looked at Androvsky, and his eyes answered her silent question. The
coachman whipped his horses into a canter, as if he were in haste to
reach his destination. He was thinking of the good red wine of the
monks. In a cloud of white dust the carriage rolled onwards between
vineyards in which, here and there, labourers were working, sheltered
from the sun by immense straw hats. A long line of waggons, laden with
barrels and drawn by mules covered with bells, sheltered from the
flies by leaves, met them. In the distance Domini saw forests of
eucalyptus trees. Suddenly it seemed to her as if she saw Androvsky
coming from them towards the white road, helping a man who was pale,
and who stumbled as if half-fainting, yet whose face was full of a
fierce passion of joy--the stranger whose influence had driven him out
of the monastery into the world. She bent down her head and hid her
face in her hands, praying, praying with all her strength for courage
in this supreme moment of her life. But almost directly the prayers
died on her lips and in her heart, and she found herself repeating the
words of /The Imitation/:
"Love watcheth, and sleeping, slumbereth not. When weary it is not
tired; when straitened it is not constrained; when frightened it is
not disturbed; but like a vivid flame and a burning torch it mounteth
upwards and securely passeth through all. Whosoever loveth knoweth the
cry of this voice."
Again and again she said the words: "It securely passeth through all--
it securely passeth through all." Now, at last, she was to know the
uttermost truth of those words which she had loved in her happiness,
which she clung to now as a little child clings to its father's hand.
The carriage turned to the right, went on a little way, then stopped.
Domini lifted her face from her hands. She saw before her a great door
which stood open. Above it was a statue of the Madonna and Child, and
on either side were two angels with swords and stars. Underneath was
written, in great letters:
Beyond, through the doorway, she saw an open space upon which the
sunlight streamed, three palm trees, and a second door which was shut.
Above this second door was written:
"/Les dames n'entrent pas ici./"
As she looked the figure of a very old monk with a long white beard
shuffled slowly across the patch of sunlight and disappeared.
The coachman turned round.
"You descend here," he said in a cheerful voice. "Madame will be
entertained in the parlour on the right of the first door, but
Monsieur can go on to the /hotellerie/. It's over there."
He pointed with his whip and turned his back to them again.
Domini sat quite still. Her lips moved, once more repeating the words
of /The Imitation/. Androvsky got up from his seat, stepped heavily
out of the carriage, and stood beside it. The coachman was busy
lighting a long cigar. Androvsky leaned forward towards Domini with
his arms on the carriage and looked at her with tearless eyes.
"Domini," at last he whispered. "Domini!"
Then she turned to him, bent towards him, put her hands on his
shoulders and looked into his face for a long time, as if she were
trying to see it now for all the years that were perhaps to come. Her
eyes, too, were tearless.
At last she leaned down and touched his forehead with her lips.
She said nothing. Her hands dropped from his shoulders, she turned
away and her lips moved once more.
Then Androvsky moved slowly in through the doorway of the monastery,
crossed the patch of sunlight, lifted his hand and rang the bell at
the second door.
"Drive back to Tunis, please."
"Madame!" said the coachman.
"Drive back to Tunis."
"Madame is not going to enter! But Monsieur--"
"Drive back to Tunis!"
Something in the voice that spoke to him startled the coachman. He
hesitated a moment, staring at Domini from his seat, then, with a
muttered curse, he turned his horses' heads and plied the whip
* * * * * *
"Love watcheth. and sleeping, slumbereth not. When weary it is not
tired. When weary--it--is not--tired."
Domini's lips ceased to move. She could not speak any more. She could
not even pray without words.
Yet, in that moment, she did not feel alone.
In the garden of Count Anteoni, which has now passed into other hands,
a little boy may often be seen playing. He is gay, as children are,
and sometimes he is naughty and, as if out of sheer wantonness, he
destroys the pyramids of sand erected by the Arab gardeners upon the
narrow paths between the hills, or tears off the petals of the
geraniums and scatters them to the breezes that whisper among the
trees. But when Larbi's flute calls to him he runs to hear. He sits at
the feet of that persistent lover, and watches the big fingers
fluttering at the holes of the reed, and his small face becomes
earnest and dreamy, as if it looked on far-off things, or watched the
pale pageant of the mirages rising mysteriously out of the sunlit
spaces of the sands to fade again, leaving no trace behind.
Only one other song he loves more than the twittering tune of Larbi.
Sometimes, when twilight is falling over the Sahara, his mother calls
him to her, to the white wall where she is sitting beneath a jamelon
"Listen, Boris!" she whispers.
The little boy climbs up on her knee, leans his face against her
breast and obeys. An Arab is passing below on the desert track,
singing to himself as he goes towards his home in the oasis:
"No one but God and I
Knows what is in my heart."
He is singing the song of the freed negroes. When his voice has died
away the mother puts the little boy down. It is bed time, and Smain is
there to lead him to the white villa, where he will sleep dreamlessly
But the mother stays alone by the wall till the night falls and the
desert is hidden.
"No one but God and I
Knows what is in my heart."
She whispers the words to herself. The cool wind of the night blows
over the vast spaces of the Sahara and touches her cheek, reminding
her of the wind that, at Arba, carried fire towards her as she sat
before the tent, reminding her of her glorious days of liberty, of the
passion that came to her soul like fire in the desert.
But she does not rebel.
For always, when night falls, she sees the form of a man praying who
once fled from prayer in the desert; she sees a wanderer who at last
has reached his home.