Part 4 out of 12
The animal, irritated by inaction, began to plunge violently and to
get out of hand.
"Give me the reins," Domini said to the poet. "That's it. Now put your
hand for me."
Batouch obeyed. Her foot just touched his hand and she was in the
Androvsky sprang forward on to the pavement. His eyes were blazing
with anxiety. She saw it and laughed gaily.
"Oh, he's not vicious," she said. "And vice is the only thing that's
dangerous. His mouth is perfect, but he's nervous and wants handling.
I'll just take him up the gardens and back."
She had been reining him in. Now she let him go, and galloped up the
straight track between the palms towards the station. The priest had
come out into his little garden with Bous-Bous, and leaned over his
brushwood fence to look after her. Bous-Bous barked in a light
soprano. The Arab boys jumped on their bare toes, and one of them, who
was a bootblack, waved his board over his shaven head. The Arab waiter
smiled as if with satisfaction at beholding perfect competence. But
Androvsky stood quite still looking down the dusty road at the
diminishing forms of horse and rider, and when they disappeared,
leaving behind them a light cloud of sand films whirling in the sun,
he sighed heavily and dropped his chin on his chest as if fatigued.
"I can get a horse for Monsieur too. Would Monsieur like to have a
It was the poet's amply seductive voice. Androvsky started.
"I don't ride," he said curtly.
"I will teach Monsieur. I am the best teacher in Beni-Mora. In three
lessons Monsieur will--"
"I don't ride, I tell you."
Androvsky was looking angry. He stepped out into the road. Bous-Bous,
who was now observing Nature at the priest's garden gate, emerged with
some sprightliness and trotted towards him, evidently with the
intention of making his acquaintance. Coming up to him the little dog
raised his head and uttered a short bark, at the same time wagging his
tail in a kindly, though not effusive manner. Androvsky looked down,
bent quickly and patted him, as only a man really fond of animals and
accustomed to them knows how to pat. Bous-Bous was openly gratified.
He began to wriggle affectionately. The priest in his garden smiled.
Androvsky had not seen him and went on playing with the dog, who now
made preparations to lie down on his curly back in the road in the
hope of being tickled, a process he was an amateur of. Still smiling,
and with a friendly look on his face, the priest came out of his
garden and approached the playmates.
"Good morning, M'sieur," he said politely, raising his hat. "I see you
Androvsky lifted himself up, leaving Bous-Bous in a prayerful
attitude, his paws raised devoutly towards the heavens. When he saw
that it was the priest who had addressed him his face changed,
hardened to grimness, and his lips trembled slightly.
"That's my little dog," the priest continued in a gentle voice. "He
has evidently taken a great fancy to you."
Batouch was watching Androvsky under the arcade, and noted the sudden
change in his expression and his whole bearing.
"I--I did not know he was your dog, Monsieur, or I should not have
interfered with him," said Androvsky.
Bous-Bous jumped up against his leg. He pushed the little dog rather
roughly away and stepped back to the arcade. The priest looked puzzled
and slightly hurt. At this moment the soft thud of horse's hoofs was
audible on the road and Domini came cantering back to the hotel. Her
eyes were sparkling, her face was radiant. She bowed to the priest and
reined up before the hotel door, where Androvsky was standing.
"I'll buy him," she said to Batouch, who swelled with satisfaction at
the thought of his commission. "And I'll go for a long ride now--out
into the desert."
"You will not go alone, Madame?"
It was the priest's voice. She smiled down at him gaily.
"Should I be carried off by nomads, Monsieur?"
"It would not be safe for a lady, believe me."
Batouch swept forward to reassure the priest. "I am Madame's guide. I
have a horse ready saddled to accompany Madame. I have sent for it
One of the little Arab boys was indeed visible running with all his
might towards the Rue Berthe. Domini's face suddenly clouded. The
presence of the guide would take all the edge off her pleasure, and in
the short gallop she had just had she had savoured its keenness. She
was alive with desire to be happy.
"I don't need you, Batouch," she said.
But the poet was inexorable, backed up by the priest.
"It is my duty to accompany Madame. I am responsible for her safety."
"Indeed, you cannot go into the desert alone," said the priest.
Domini glanced at Androvsky, who was standing silently under the
arcade, a little withdrawn, looking uncomfortable and self-conscious.
She remembered her thought on the tower of the dice-thrower, and of
how the presence of the stranger had seemed to double her pleasure
then. Up the road from the Rue Berthe came the noise of a galloping
horse. The shoeblack was returning furiously, his bare legs sticking
out on either side of a fiery light chestnut with a streaming mane and
"Monsieur Androvsky," she said.
"Will you come with me for a ride into the desert?"
His face was flooded with scarlet, and he came a step forward, looking
up at her.
"I!" he said with an accent of infinite surprise.
"Yes. Will you?"
The chestnut thundered up and was pulled sharply back on its haunches.
Androvsky shot a sideways glance at it and hesitated. Domini thought
he was going to refuse and wished she had not asked him, wished it
"Never mind," she said, almost brutally in her vexation at what she
The poet was about to spring upon the horse when Androvsky caught him
by the arm.
"I will go," he said.
Batouch looked vicious. "But Monsieur told me he did not----"
He stopped. The hand on his arm had given him a wrench that made him
feel as if his flesh were caught between steel pincers. Androvsky came
up to the chestnut.
"Oh, it's an Arab saddle," said Domini.
"It does not matter, Madame."
His face was stern.
"Are you accustomed to them?"
"It makes no difference."
He took hold of the rein and put his foot in the high stirrup, but so
awkwardly that he kicked the horse in the side. It plunged.
"Take care!" said Domini.
Androvsky hung on, and climbed somehow into the saddle, coming down in
it heavily, with a thud. The horse, now thoroughly startled, plunged
furiously and lashed out with its hind legs. Androvsky was thrown
forward against the high red peak of the saddle with his hands on the
animal's neck. There was a struggle. He tugged at the rein violently.
The horse jumped back, reared, plunged sideways as if about to bolt.
Androvsky was shot off and fell on his right shoulder heavily. Batouch
caught the horse while Androvsky got up. He was white with dust. There
was even dust on his face and in his short hair. He looked passionate.
"You see," Batouch began, speaking to Domini, "that Monsieur cannot--"
"Give me the rein!" said Androvsky.
There was a sound in his deep voice that was terrible. He was looking
not at Domini, but at the priest, who stood a little aside with an
expression of concern on his face. Bous-Bous barked with excitement at
the conflict. Androvsky took the rein, and, with a sort of furious
determination, sprang into the saddle and pressed his legs against the
horse's flanks. It reared up. The priest moved back under the palm
trees, the Arab boys scattered. Batouch sought the shelter of the
arcade, and the horse, with a short, whining neigh that was like a cry
of temper, bolted between the trunks of the trees, heading for the
desert, and disappeared in a flash.
"He will be killed," said the priest.
Bous-Bous barked frantically.
"It is his own fault," said the poet. "He told me himself just now
that he did not know how to ride."
"Why didn't you tell me so?" Domini exclaimed.
But she was gone, following Androvsky at a slow canter lest she should
frighten his horse by coming up behind it. She came out from the shade
of the palms into the sun. The desert lay before her. She searched it
eagerly with her eyes and saw Androvsky's horse far off in the river
bed, still going at a gallop towards the south, towards that region in
which she had told him on the tower she thought that peace must dwell.
It was as if he had believed her words blindly and was frantically in
chase of peace. And she pursued him through the blazing sunlight. She
was out in the desert at length, beyond the last belt of verdure,
beyond the last line of palms. The desert wind was on her cheek and in
her hair. The desert spaces stretched around her. Under her horse's
hoofs lay the sparkling crystals on the wrinkled, sun-dried earth. The
red rocks, seamed with many shades of colour that all suggested
primeval fires and the relentless action of heat, were heaped about
her. But her eyes were fixed on the far-off moving speck that was the
horse carrying Androvsky madly towards the south. The light and fire,
the great airs, the sense of the chase intoxicated her. She struck her
horse with the whip. It leaped, as if clearing an immense obstacle,
came down lightly and strained forward into the shining mysteries at a
furious gallop. The black speck grew larger. She was gaining. The
crumbling, cliff-like bank on her left showed a rent in which a faint
track rose sharply to the flatness beyond. She put her horse at it and
came out among the tiny humps on which grew the halfa grass and the
tamarisk bushes. A pale sand flew up here about the horse's feet.
Androvsky was still below her in the difficult ground where the water
came in the floods. She gained and gained till she was parallel with
him and could see his bent figure, his arms clinging to the peak of
his red saddle, his legs set forward almost on to his horse's withers
by the short stirrups with their metal toecaps. The animal's temper
was nearly spent. She could see that. The terror had gone out of his
pace. As she looked she saw Androvsky raise his arms from the saddle
peak, catch at the flying rein, draw it up, lean against the saddle
back and pull with all his force. The horse stopped dead.
"His strength must be enormous," Domini thought with a startled
She pulled up too on the bank above him and gave a halloo. He turned
his head, saw her, and put his horse at the bank, which was steep here
and without any gap. "You can't do it," she called.
In reply he dug the heels of his heavy boots into the horse's flanks
and came on recklessly. She thought the horse would either refuse or
try to get up and roll back on its rider. It sprang at the bank and
mounted like a wild cat. There was a noise of falling stones, a shower
of scattered earth-clods dropping downward, and he was beside her,
white with dust, streaming with sweat, panting as if the labouring
breath would rip his chest open, with the horse's foam on his
forehead, and a savage and yet exultant gleam in his eyes.
They looked at each other in silence, while their horses, standing
quietly, lowered their narrow, graceful heads and touched noses with
delicate inquiry. Then she said:
"I almost thought----"
"Yes?" he said, on a great gasping breath that was like a sob.
"--that you were off to the centre of the earth, or--I don't know what
I thought. You aren't hurt?"
He could only speak in monosyllables as yet. She looked his horse
"He won't give much more trouble just now. Shall we ride back?"
As she spoke she threw a longing glance at the far desert, at the
verge of which was a dull green line betokening the distant palms of
Androvsky shook his head.
"But you----" She hesitated. "Perhaps you aren't accustomed to horses,
and with that saddle----"
He shook his head again, drew a tremendous breath and said
"I don't care, I'll go on, I won't go back."
He put up one hand, brushed the foam from his streaming forehead, and
said again fiercely:
"I won't go back."
His face was extraordinary with its dogged, passionate expression
showing through the dust and the sweat; like the face of a man in a
fight to the death, she thought, a fight with fists. She was glad at
his last words and liked the iron sound in his voice.
"Come on then."
And they began to ride towards the dull green line of the oasis,
slowly on the sandy waste among the little round humps where the dusty
cluster of bushes grew.
"You weren't hurt by the fall?" she said. "It looked a bad one."
"I don't know whether I was. I don't care whether I was."
He spoke almost roughly.
"You asked me to ride with you," he added. "I'll ride with you."
She remembered what Batouch had said. There was pluck in this man,
pluck that surged up in the blundering awkwardness, the hesitation,
the incompetence and rudeness of him like a black rock out of the sea.
She did not answer. They rode on, always slowly. His horse, having had
its will, and having known his strength at the end of his
incompetence, went quietly, though always with that feathery, light,
tripping action peculiar to purebred Arabs, an action that suggests
the treading of a spring board rather than of the solid earth. And
Androvsky seemed a little more at home on it, although he sat
awkwardly on the chair-like saddle, and grasped the rein too much as
the drowning man seizes the straw. Domini rode without looking at him,
lest he might think she was criticising his performance. When he had
rolled in the dust she had been conscious of a sharp sensation of
contempt. The men she had been accustomed to meet all her life rode,
shot, played games as a matter of course. She was herself an athlete,
and, like nearly all athletic women, inclined to be pitiless towards
any man who was not so strong and so agile as herself. But this man
had killed her contempt at once by his desperate determination not to
be beaten. She knew by the look she had just seen in his eyes that if
to ride with her that day meant death to him he would have done it
The womanhood in her liked the tribute, almost more than liked it.
"Your horse goes better now," she said at last to break the silence.
"Does it?" he said.
"You don't know!"
"Madame, I know nothing of horses or riding. I have not been on a
horse for twenty-three years."
She was amazed.
"We ought to go back then," she exclaimed.
"Why? Other men ride--I will ride. I do it badly. Forgive me."
"Forgive you!" she said. "I admire your pluck. But why have you never
ridden all these years?"
After a pause he answered:
"I--I did not--I had not the opportunity."
His voice was suddenly constrained. She did not pursue the subject,
but stroked her horse's neck and turned her eyes towards the dark
green line on the horizon. Now that she was really out in the desert
she felt almost bewildered by it, and as if she understood it far less
than when she looked at it from Count Anteoni's garden. The thousands
upon thousands of sand humps, each crowned with its dusty dwarf bush,
each one precisely like the others, agitated her as if she were
confronted by a vast multitude of people. She wanted some point which
would keep the eyes from travelling but could not find it, and was
mentally restless as the swimmer far out at sea who is pursued by wave
on wave, and who sees beyond him the unceasing foam of those that are
pressing to the horizon. Whither was she riding? Could one have a goal
in this immense expanse? She felt an overpowering need to find one,
and looked once more at the green line.
"Do you think we could go as far as that?" she asked Androvsky,
pointing with her whip.
"It must be an oasis. Don't you think so?"
"Yes. I can go faster."
"Keep your rein loose. Don't pull his mouth. You don't mind my telling
you. I've been with horses all my life."
"Thank you," he answered.
"And keep your heels more out. That's much better. I'm sure you could
teach me a thousand things; it will be kind of you to let me teach you
He cast a strange look at her. There was gratitude in it, but much
more; a fiery bitterness and something childlike and helpless.
"I have nothing to teach," he said.
Their horses broke into a canter, and with the swifter movement Domini
felt more calm. There was an odd lightness in her brain, as if her
thoughts were being shaken out of it like feathers out of a bag. The
power of concentration was leaving her, and a sensation of
carelessness--surely gipsy-like--came over her. Her body, dipped in
the dry and thin air as in a clear, cool bath, did not suffer from the
burning rays of the sun, but felt radiant yet half lazy too. They went
on and on in silence as intimate friends might ride together, isolated
from the world and content in each other's company, content enough to
have no need of talking. Not once did it strike Domini as strange that
she should go far out into the desert with a man of whom she knew
nothing, but in whom she had noticed disquieting peculiarities. She
was naturally fearless, but that had little to do with her conduct.
Without saying so to herself she felt she could trust this man.
The dark green line showed clearer through the sunshine across the
gleaming flats. It was possible now to see slight irregularities in
it, as in a blurred dash of paint flung across a canvas by an
uncertain hand, but impossible to distinguish palm trees. The air
sparkled as if full of a tiny dust of intensely brilliant jewels, and
near the ground there seemed to quiver a maze of dancing specks of
light. Everywhere there was solitude, yet everywhere there was surely
a ceaseless movement of minute and vital things, scarce visible sun
fairies eternally at play.
And Domini's careless feeling grew. She had never before experienced
so delicious a recklessness. Head and heart were light, reckless of
thought or love. Sad things had no meaning here and grave things no
place. For the blood was full of sunbeams dancing to a lilt of Apollo.
Nothing mattered here. Even Death wore a robe of gold and went with an
airy step. Ah, yes, from this region of quivering light and heat the
Arabs drew their easy and lustrous resignation. Out here one was in
the hands of a God who surely sang as He created and had not created
Many minutes passed, but Domini was careless of time as of all else.
The green line broke into feathery tufts, broadened into a still far-
off dimness of palms.
Androvsky's voice spoke as if startled. Domini pulled up. Their horses
stood side by side, and at once, with the cessation of motion, the
mysticism of the desert came upon them and the marvel of its silence,
and they seemed to be set there in a wonderful dream, themselves and
their horses dreamlike.
"Water!" he said again.
He pointed, and along the right-hand edge of the oasis Domini saw
grey, calm waters. The palms ran out into them and were bathed by them
softly. And on their bosom here and there rose small, dim islets. Yes,
there was water, and yet-- The mystery of it was a mystery she had
never known to brood even over a white northern sea in a twilight hour
of winter, was deeper than the mystery of the Venetian /laguna morta/,
when the Angelus bell chimes at sunset, and each distant boat, each
bending rower and patient fisherman, becomes a marvel, an eerie thing
in the gold.
"Is it mirage?" she said to him almost in a whisper.
And suddenly she shivered.
"Yes, it is, it must be."
He did not answer. His left hand, holding the rein, dropped down on
the saddle peak, and he stared across the waste, leaning forward and
moving his lips. She looked at him and forgot even the mirage in a
sudden longing to understand exactly what he was feeling. His mystery
--the mystery of that which is human and is forever stretching out its
arms--was as the fluid mystery of the mirage, and seemed to blend at
that moment with the mystery she knew lay in herself. The mirage was
within them as it was far off before them in the desert, still, grey,
full surely of indistinct movement, and even perhaps of sound they
could not hear.
At last he turned and looked at her.
"Yes, it must be mirage," he said. "The nothing that seems to be so
much. A man comes out into the desert and he finds there mirage. He
travels right out and that's what he reaches--or at least he can't
reach it, but just sees it far away. And that's all. And is that what
a man finds when he comes out into the world?"
It was the first time he had spoken without any trace of reserve to
her, for even on the tower, though there had been tumult in his voice
and a fierceness of some strange passion in his words, there had been
struggle in his manner, as if the pressure of feeling forced him to
speak in despite of something which bade him keep silence. Now he
spoke as if to someone whom he knew and with whom he had talked of
"But you ought to know better than I do," she answered.
"Yes. You are a man, and have been in the world, and must know what it
has to give--whether there's only mirage, or something that can be
grasped and felt and lived in, and----"
"Yes, I'm a man and I ought to know," he replied. "Well, I don't know,
but I mean to know."
There was a savage sound in his voice.
"I should like to know, too," Domini said quietly. "And I feel as if
it was the desert that was going to teach me."
"I don't know."
He pointed again to the mirage.
"But that's what there is in the desert."
"That--and what else?"
"Is there anything else?"
"Perhaps everything," she answered. "I am like you. I want to know."
He looked straight into her eyes and there was something dominating in
"You think it is the desert that could teach you whether the world
holds anything but a mirage," he said slowly. "Well, I don't think it
would be the desert that could teach me."
She said nothing more, but let her horse go and rode off. He followed,
and as he rode awkwardly, yet bravely, pressing his strong legs
against his animal's flanks and holding his thin body bent forward, he
looked at Domini's upright figure and brilliant, elastic grace--that
gave in to her horse as wave gives to wind--with a passion of envy in
They did not speak again till the great palm gardens of the oasis they
had seen far off were close upon them. From the desert they looked
both shabby and superb, as if some millionaire had poured forth money
to create a Paradise out here, and, when it was nearly finished, had
suddenly repented of his whim and refused to spend another farthing.
The thousands upon thousands of mighty trees were bounded by long,
irregular walls of hard earth, at the top of which were stuck
distraught thorn bushes. These walls gave the rough, penurious aspect
which was in such sharp contrast to the exotic mystery they guarded.
Yet in the fierce blaze of the sun their meanness was not
disagreeable. Domini even liked it. It seemed to her as if the desert
had thrown up waves to protect this daring oasis which ventured to
fling its green glory like a defiance in the face of the Sahara. A
wide track of earth, sprinkled with stones and covered with deep ruts,
holes and hummocks, wound in from the desert between the earthen walls
and vanished into the heart of the oasis. They followed it.
Domini was filled with a sort of romantic curiosity. This luxury of
palms far out in the midst of desolation, untended apparently by human
hands--for no figures moved among them, there was no one on the road--
suggested some hidden purpose and activity, some concealed personage,
perhaps an Eastern Anteoni, whose lair lay surely somewhere beyond
them. As she had felt the call of the desert she now felt the call of
the oasis. In this land thrilled eternally a summons to go onward, to
seek, to penetrate, to be a passionate pilgrim. She wondered whether
her companion's heart could hear it.
"I don't know why it is," she said, "but out here I always feel
expectant. I always feel as if some marvellous thing might be going to
happen to me."
She did not add "Do you?" but looked at him as if for a reply.
"Yes, Madame," he said.
"I suppose it is because I am new to Africa. This is my first visit
here. I am not like you. I can't speak Arabic."
She suddenly wondered whether the desert was new to him as to her. She
had assumed that it was. Yet as he spoke Arabic it was almost certain
that he had been much in Africa.
"I do not speak it well," he answered.
And he looked away towards the dense thickets of the palms. The track
narrowed till the trees on either side cast patterns of moving shade
across it and the silent mystery was deepened. As far as the eye could
see the feathery, tufted foliage swayed in the little wind. The desert
had vanished, but sent in after them the message of its soul, the
marvellous breath which Domini had drunk into her lungs so long before
she saw it. That breath was like a presence. It dwells in all oases.
The high earth walls concealed the gardens. Domini longed to look over
and see what they contained, whether there were any dwellings in these
dim and silent recesses, any pools of water, flowers or grassy lawns.
Her horse neighed.
"Something is coming," she said.
They turned a corner and were suddenly in a village. A mob of half-
naked children scattered from their horses' feet. Rows of seated men
in white and earth-coloured robes stared upon them from beneath the
shadow of tall, windowless earth houses. White dogs rushed to and fro
upon the flat roofs, thrusting forward venomous heads, showing their
teeth and barking furiously. Hens fluttered in agitation from one side
to the other. A grey mule, tethered to a palm-wood door and loaded
with brushwood, lashed out with its hoofs at a negro, who at once
began to batter it passionately with a pole, and a long line of
sneering camels confronted them, treading stealthily, and turning
their serpentine necks from side to side as they came onwards with a
soft and weary inflexibility. In the distance there was a vision of a
glaring market-place crowded with moving forms and humming with
The change from mysterious peace to this vivid and concentrated life
With difficulty they avoided the onset of the camels by pulling their
horses into the midst of the dreamers against the walls, who rolled
and scrambled into places of safety, then stood up and surrounded
them, staring with an almost terrible interest upon them, and
surveying their horses with the eyes of connoisseurs. The children
danced up and began to ask for alms, and an immense man, with a broken
nose and brown teeth like tusks, laid a gigantic hand on Domini's
bridle and said, in atrocious French:
"I am the guide, I am the guide. Look at my certificates. Take no one
else. The people here are robbers. I am the only honest man. I will
show Madame everything. I will take Madame to the inn. Look--my
certificates! Read them! Read what the English lord says of me. I
alone am honest here. I am honest Mustapha! I am honest Mustapha!"
He thrust a packet of discoloured papers and dirty visiting-cards into
her hands. She dropped them, laughing, and they floated down over the
horse's neck. The man leaped frantically to pick them up, assisted by
the robbers round about. A second caravan of camels appeared, preceded
by some filthy men in rags, who cried, "Oosh! oosh!" to clear the way.
The immense man, brandishing his recovered certificates, plunged
forward to encounter them, shouting in Arabic, hustled them back,
kicked them, struck at the camels with a stick till those in front
receded upon those behind and the street was blocked by struggling
beasts and resounded with roaring snarls, the thud of wooden bales
clashing together, and the desperate protests of the camel-drivers,
one of whom was sent rolling into a noisome dust heap with his turban
torn from his head.
"The inn! This is the inn! Madame will descend here. Madame will eat
in the garden. Monsieur Alphonse! Monsieur Alphonse! Here are clients
for /dejeuner/. I have brought them. Do not believe Mohammed. It is I
that--I will assist Madame to descend. I will----"
Domini was standing in a tiny cabaret before a row of absinthe
bottles, laughing, almost breathless. She scarcely knew how she had
come there. Looking back she saw Androvsky still sitting on his horse
in the midst of the clamouring mob. She went to the low doorway, but
Mustapha barred her exit.
"This is Sidi-Zerzour. Madame will eat in the garden. She is tired,
fainting. She will eat and then she will see the great Mosque of
"Sidi-Zerzour!" she exclaimed. "Monsieur Androvsky, do you know where
we are? This is the famous Sidi-Zerzour, where the great warrior is
buried, and where the Arabs make pilgrimages to worship at his tomb."
He answered in a low voice.
"As we are here we ought to see. Do you know, I think we must yield to
honest Mustapha and have /dejeuner/ in the garden. It is twelve
o'clock and I am hungry. We might visit the mosque afterwards and ride
home in the afternoon."
He sat there hunched up on the horse and looked at her in silent
hesitation, while the Arabs stood round staring.
"You'd rather not?"
She spoke quietly. He shook his feet out of the stirrups. A number of
brown hands and arms shot forth to help him. Domini turned back into
the cabaret. She heard a tornado of voices outside, a horse neighing
and trampling, a scuffling of feet, but she did not glance round. In
about three minutes Androvsky joined her. He was limping slightly and
bending forward more than ever. Behind the counter on which stood the
absinthe bottle was a tarnished mirror, and she saw him glance
quickly, almost guiltily into it, put up his hands and try to brush
the dust from his hair, his shoulders.
"Let me do it," she said abruptly. "Turn round."
He obeyed without a word, turning his back to her. With her two hands,
which were covered with soft, loose suede gloves, she beat and brushed
the dust from his coat. He stood quite still while she did it. When
she had finished she said:
"There, that's better."
Her voice was practical. He did not move, but stood there.
"I've done what I can, Monsieur Androvsky."
Then he turned slowly, and she saw, with amazement, that there were
tears in his eyes. He did not thank her or say a word.
A small and scrubby-looking Frenchman, with red eyelids and moustaches
that drooped over a pendulous underlip, now begged Madame to follow
him through a small doorway beyond which could be seen three just shot
gazelles lying in a patch of sunlight by a wired-in fowl-run. Domini
went after him, and Androvsky and honest Mustapha--still vigorously
proclaiming his own virtues--brought up the rear. They came into the
most curious garden she had ever seen.
It was long and narrow and dishevelled, without grass or flowers. The
uneven ground of it was bare, sun-baked earth, hard as parquet, rising
here into a hump, falling there into a depression. Immediately behind
the cabaret, where the dead gazelles with their large glazed eyes lay
by the fowl-run, was a rough wooden trellis with vines trained over
it, making an arbour. Beyond was a rummage of orange trees, palms,
gums and fig trees growing at their own sweet will, and casting
patterns of deep shade upon the earth in sharp contrast with the
intense yellow sunlight which fringed them where the leafage ceased.
An attempt had been made to create formal garden paths and garden beds
by sticking rushes into little holes drilled in the ground, but the
paths were zig-zag as a drunkard's walk, and the round and oblong beds
contained no trace of plants. On either hand rose steep walls of
earth, higher than a man, and crowned with prickly thorn bushes. Over
them looked palm trees. At the end of the garden ran a slow stream of
muddy water in a channel with crumbling banks trodden by many naked
feet. Beyond it was yet another lower wall of earth, yet another maze
of palms. Heat and silence brooded here like reptiles on the warm mud
of a tropic river in a jungle. Lizards ran in and out of the
innumerable holes in the walls, and flies buzzed beneath the ragged
leaves of the fig trees and crawled in the hot cracks of the earth.
The landlord wished to put a table under the vine close to the cabaret
wall, but Domini begged him to bring it to the end of the garden near
the stream. With the furious assistance of honest Mustapha he carried
it there and quickly laid it in the shadow of a fig tree, while Domini
and Androvsky waited in silence on two straw-bottomed chairs.
The atmosphere of the garden was hostile to conversation. The sluggish
muddy stream, the almost motionless trees, the imprisoned heat between
the surrounding walls, the faint buzz of the flies caused drowsiness
to creep upon the spirit. The long ride, too, and the ardent desert
air, made this repose a luxury. Androvsky's face lost its emotional
expression as he gazed almost vacantly at the brown water shifting
slowly by between the brown banks and the brown walls above which the
palm trees peered. His aching limbs relaxed. His hands hung loose
between his knees. And Domini half closed her eyes. A curious peace
descended upon her. Lapped in the heat and silence for the moment she
wanted nothing. The faint buzz of the flies sounded in her ears and
seemed more silent than even the silence to which it drew attention.
Never before, not in Count Anteoni's garden, had she felt more utterly
withdrawn from the world. The feathery tops of the palms were like the
heads of sentinels guarding her from contact with all that she had
known. And beyond them lay the desert, the empty, sunlit waste. She
shut her eyes, and murmured to herself, "I am in far away. I am in far
away." And the flies said it in her ears monotonously. And the lizards
whispered it as they slipped in and out of the little dark holes in
the walls. She heard Androvsky stir, and she moved her lips slowly.
And the flies and the lizards continued the refrain. But she said now,
"We are in far away."
Honest Mustapha strode forward. He had a Bashi-Bazouk tread to wake up
a world. /Dejeuner/ was ready. Domini sighed. They took their places
under the fig tree on either side of the deal table covered with a
rough white cloth, and Mustapha, with tremendous gestures, and
gigantic postures suggesting the untamed descendant of legions of
freeborn, sun-suckled men, served them with red fish, omelette,
gazelle steaks, cheese, oranges and dates, with white wine and Vals
Androvsky scarcely spoke. Now that he was sitting at a meal with
Domini he was obviously embarrassed. All his movements were self-
conscious. He seemed afraid to eat and refused the gazelle. Mustapha
broke out into turbulent surprise and prolonged explanations of the
delicious flavour of this desert food. But Androvsky still refused,
looking desperately disconcerted.
"It really is delicious," said Domini, who was eating it. "But perhaps
you don't care about meat."
She spoke quite carelessly and was surprised to see him look at her as
if with sudden suspicion and immediately help himself to the gazelle.
This man was perpetually giving a touch of the whip to her curiosity
to keep it alert. Yet she felt oddly at ease with him. He seemed
somehow part of her impression of the desert, and now, as they sat
under the fig tree between the high earth walls, and at their /al
fresco/ meal in unbroken silence--for since her last remark Androvsky
had kept his eyes down and had not uttered a word--she tried to
imagine the desert without him.
She thought of the gorge of El-Akbara, the cold, the darkness, and
then the sun and the blue country. They had framed his face. She
thought of the silent night when the voice of the African hautboy had
died away. His step had broken its silence. She thought of the garden
of Count Anteoni, and of herself kneeling on the hot sand with her
arms on the white parapet and gazing out over the regions of the sun,
of her dream upon the tower, of her vision when Irena danced. He was
there, part of the noon, part of the twilight, chief surely of the
worshippers who swept on in the pale procession that received gifts
from the desert's hands. She could no longer imagine the desert
without him. The almost painful feeling that had come to her in the
garden--of the human power to distract her attention from the desert
power--was dying, perhaps had completely died away. Another feeling
was surely coming to replace it; that Androvsky belonged to the desert
more even than the Arabs did, that the desert spirits were close about
him, clasping his hands, whispering in his ears, and laying their
unseen hands about his heart. But----
They had finished their meal. Domini set her chair once more in front
of the sluggish stream, while honest Mustapha bounded, with motions
suggestive of an ostentatious panther, to get the coffee. Androvsky
followed her after an instant of hesitation.
"Do smoke," she said.
He lit a small cigar with difficulty. She did not wish to watch him,
but she could not help glancing at him once or twice, and the
conviction came to her that he was unaccustomed to smoking. She lit a
cigarette, and saw him look at her with a sort of horrified surprise
which changed to staring interest. There was more boy, more child in
this man than in any man she had ever known. Yet at moments she felt
as if he had penetrated more profoundly into the dark and winding
valleys of experience than all the men of her acquaintance.
"Monsieur Androvsky," she said, looking at the slow waters of the
stream slipping by towards the hidden gardens, "is the desert new to
She longed to know.
"I thought perhaps--I wondered a little whether you had travelled in
"No, Madame. I saw it for the first time the day before yesterday."
"When I did."
So they had entered it for the first time together. She was silent,
watching the pale smoke curl up through the shade and out into the
glare of the sun, the lizards creeping over the hot earth, the flies
circling beneath the lofty walls, the palm trees looking over into
this garden from the gardens all around, gardens belonging to Eastern
people, born here, and who would probably die here, and go to dust
among the roots of the palms.
On the earthen bank on the far side of the stream there appeared,
while she gazed, a brilliant figure. It came soundlessly on bare feet
from a hidden garden; a tall, unveiled girl, dressed in draperies of
vivid magenta, who carried in her exquisitely-shaped brown hands a
number of handkerchiefs--scarlet, orange, yellow green and flesh
colour. She did not glance into the /auberge/ garden, but caught up
her draperies into a bunch with one hand, exposing her slim legs far
above the knees, waded into the stream, and bending, dipped the
handkerchiefs in the water.
The current took them. They streamed out on the muddy surface of the
stream, and tugged as if, suddenly endowed with life, they were
striving to escape from the hand that held them.
The girl's face was beautiful, with small regular features and
lustrous, tender eyes. Her figure, not yet fully developed, was
perfect in shape, and seemed to thrill softly with the spirit of
youth. Her tint of bronze suggested statuary, and every fresh pose
into which she fell, while the water eddied about her, strengthened
the suggestion. With the golden sunlight streaming upon her, the brown
banks, the brown waters, the brown walls throwing up the crude magenta
of her bunched-up draperies, the vivid colours of the handkerchiefs
that floated from her hand, with the feathery palms beside her, the
cloudless blue sky above her, she looked so strangely African and so
completely lovely that Domini watched her with an almost breathless
She withdrew the handkerchiefs from the stream, waded out, and spread
them one by one upon the low earth wall to dry, letting her draperies
fall. When she had finished disposing them she turned round, and, no
longer preoccupied with her task, looked under her level brows into
the garden opposite and saw Domini and her companion. She did not
start, but stood quite still for a moment, then slipped away in the
direction whence she had come. Only the brilliant patches of colour on
the wall remained to hint that she had been there and would come
again. Domini sighed.
"What a lovely creature!" she said, more to herself than to Androvsky.
He did not speak, and his silence made her consciously demand his
acquiescence in her admiration.
"Did you ever see anything more beautiful and more characteristic of
Africa?" she asked.
"Madame," he said in a slow, stern voice, "I did not look at her."
Domini felt piqued.
"Why not?" she retorted.
Androvsky's face was cloudy and almost cruel.
"These native women do not interest me," he said. "I see nothing
attractive in them."
Domini knew that he was telling her a lie. Had she not seen him
watching the dancing girls in Tahar's cafe? Anger rose in her. She
said to herself then that it was anger at man's hypocrisy. Afterwards
she knew that it was anger at Androvsky's telling a lie to her.
"I can scarcely believe that," she answered bluntly.
They looked at each other.
"Why not, Madame?" he said. "If I say it is so?"
She hesitated. At that moment she realised, with hot astonishment,
that there was something in this man that could make her almost
afraid, that could prevent her even, perhaps, from doing the thing she
had resolved to do. Immediately she felt hostile to him, and she knew
that, at that moment, he was feeling hostile to her.
"If you say it is so naturally I am bound to take your word for it,"
she said coldly.
He flushed and looked down. The rigid defiance that had confronted her
died out of his face.
Honest Mustapha broke joyously upon them with the coffee. Domini
helped Androvsky to it. She had to make a great effort to perform this
simple act with quiet, and apparently indifferent, composure.
"Thank you, Madame."
His voice sounded humble, but she felt hard and as if ice were in all
her veins. She sipped her coffee, looking straight before her at the
stream. The magenta robe appeared once more coming out from the brown
wall. A yellow robe succeeded it, a scarlet, a deep purple. The girl,
with three curious young companions, stood in the sun examining the
foreigners with steady, unflinching eyes. Domini smiled grimly. Fate
gave her an opportunity. She beckoned to the girls. They looked at
each other but did not move. She held up a bit of silver so that the
sun was on it, and beckoned them again. The magenta robe was lifted
above the pretty knees it had covered. The yellow, the scarlet, the
deep purple robes rose too, making their separate revelations. And the
four girls, all staring at the silver coin, waded through the muddy
water and stood before Domini and Androvsky, blotting out the glaring
sunshine with their young figures. Their smiling faces were now eager
and confident, and they stretched out their delicate hands hopefully
to the silver. Domini signified that they must wait a moment.
She felt full of malice.
The girls wore many ornaments. She began slowly and deliberately to
examine them; the huge gold earrings that were as large as the little
ears that sustained them, the bracelets and anklets, the triangular
silver skewers that fastened the draperies across the gentle swelling
breasts, the narrow girdles, worked with gold thread, and hung with
lumps of coral, that circled the small, elastic waists. Her inventory
was an adagio, and while it lasted Androvsky sat on his low straw
chair with this wall of young womanhood before him, of young womanhood
no longer self-conscious and timid, but eager, hardy, natural, warm
with the sun and damp with the trickling drops of the water. The vivid
draperies touched him, and presently a little hand stole out to his
breast, caught at the silver chain that lay across it, and jerked out
of its hiding-place--a wooden cross.
Domini saw the light on it for a second, heard a low, fierce
exclamation, saw Androvsky's arm push the pretty hand roughly away,
and then a thing that was strange.
He got up violently from his chair with the cross hanging loose on his
breast. Then he seized hold of it, snapped the chain in two, threw the
cross passionately into the stream and walked away down the garden.
The four girls, with a twittering cry of excitement, rushed into the
water, heedless of draperies, bent down, knelt down, and began to feel
frantically in the mud for the vanished ornament. Domini stood up and
watched them. Androvsky did not come back. Some minutes passed. Then
there was an exclamation of triumph from the stream. The girl in
magenta held up the dripping cross with the bit of silver chain in her
dripping fingers. Domini cast a swift glance behind her. Androvsky had
disappeared. Quickly she went to the edge of the water. As she was in
riding-dress she wore no ornaments except two earrings made of large
and beautiful turquoises. She took them hastily out of her ears and
held them out to the girl, signifying by gestures that she bartered
them for the little cross and chain. The girl hesitated, but the clear
blue tint of the turquoise pleased her eyes. She yielded, snatched the
earrings with an eager, gave up the cross and chain with a reluctant,
hand. Domini's fingers closed round the wet gold. She threw some coins
across the stream on to the bank, and turned away, thrusting the cross
into her bosom.
And she felt at that moment as if she had saved a sacred thing from
At the cabaret door she found Androvsky, once more surrounded by
Arabs, whom honest Mustapha was trying to beat off. He turned when he
heard her. His eyes were still full of a light that revealed an
intensity of mental agitation, and she saw his left hand, which hung
down, quivering against his side. But he succeeded in schooling his
voice as he asked:
"Do you wish to visit the village, Madame?"
"Yes. But don't let me bother you if you would rather--"
"I will come. I wish to come."
She did not believe it. She felt that he was in great pain, both of
body and mind. His fall had hurt him. She knew that by the way he
moved his right arm. The unaccustomed exercise had made him stiff.
Probably the physical discomfort he was silently enduring had acted as
an irritant to the mind. She remembered that it was caused by his
determination to be her companion, and the ice in her melted away. She
longed to make him calmer, happier. Secretly she touched the little
cross that lay under her habit. He had thrown it away in a passion.
Well, some day perhaps she would have the pleasure of giving it back
to him. Since he had worn it he must surely care for it, and even
perhaps for that which it recalled.
"We ought to visit the mosque, I think," she said.
The assent sounded determined yet reluctant. She knew this was all
against his will. Mustapha took charge of them, and they set out down
the narrow street, accompanied by a little crowd. They crossed the
glaring market-place, with its booths of red meat made black by flies,
its heaps of refuse, its rows of small and squalid hutches, in which
sat serious men surrounded by their goods. The noise here was
terrific. Everyone seemed shouting, and the uproar of the various
trades, the clamour of hammers on sheets of iron, the dry tap of the
shoemaker's wooden wand on the soles of countless slippers, the thud
of the coffee-beater's blunt club on the beans, and the groaning grunt
with which he accompanied each downward stroke mingled with the
incessant roar of camels, and seemed to be made more deafening and
intolerable by the fierce heat of the sun, and by the innumerable
smells which seethed forth upon the air. Domini felt her nerves set on
edge, and was thankful when they came once more into the narrow alleys
that ran everywhere between the brown, blind houses. In them there was
shade and silence and mystery. Mustapha strode before to show the way,
Domini and Androvsky followed, and behind glided the little mob of
barefoot inquisitors in long shirts, speechless and intent, and always
hopeful of some chance scattering of money by the wealthy travellers.
The tumult of the market-place at length died away, and Domini was
conscious of a curious, far-off murmur. At first it was so faint that
she was scarcely aware of it, and merely felt the soothing influence
of its level monotony. But as they walked on it grew deeper, stronger.
It was like the sound of countless multitudes of bees buzzing in the
noon among flowers, drowsily, ceaselessly. She stopped under a low mud
arch to listen. And when she listened, standing still, a feeling of
awe came upon her, and she knew that she had never heard such a
strangely impressive, strangely suggestive sound before.
"What is that?" she said.
She looked at Androvsky.
"I don't know, Madame. It must be people."
"But what can they be doing?"
"They are praying in the mosque where Sidi-Zerzour is buried," said
Domini remembered the perfume-seller. This was the sound she had beard
in his sunken chamber, infinitely multiplied. They went on again
slowly. Mustapha had lost something of his flaring manner, and his
gait was subdued. He walked with a sort of soft caution, like a man
approaching holy ground. And Domini was moved by his sudden reverence.
It was impressive in such a fierce and greedy scoundrel. The level
murmur deepened, strengthened. All the empty and dim alleys
surrounding the unseen mosque were alive with it, as if the earth of
the houses, the palm-wood beams, the iron bars of the tiny, shuttered
windows, the very thorns of the brushwood roofs were praying
ceaselessly and intently in secret under voices. This was a world
intense with prayer as a flame is intense with heat, with prayer
penetrating and compelling, urgent in its persistence, powerful in its
deep and sultry concentration, yet almost oppressive, almost terrible
in its monotony.
"Allah-Akbar! Allah-Akbar!" It was the murmur of the desert and the
murmur of the sun. It was the whisper of the mirage, and of the airs
that stole among the palm leaves. It was the perpetual heart-beat of
this world that was engulfing her, taking her to its warm and glowing
bosom with soft and tyrannical intention.
"Allah! Allah! Allah!" Surely God must be very near, bending to such
an everlasting cry. Never before, not even when the bell sounded and
the Host was raised, had Domini felt the nearness of God to His world,
the absolute certainty of a Creator listening to His creatures,
watching them, wanting them, meaning them some day to be one with Him,
as she felt it now while she threaded the dingy alleys towards these
countless men who prayed.
Androvsky was walking slowly as if in pain.
"Your shoulder isn't hurting you?" she whispered.
This long sound of prayer moved her to the soul, made her feel very
full of compassion for everybody and everything, and as if prayer were
a cord binding the world together. He shook his head silently. She
looked at him, and felt that he was moved also, but whether as she was
she could not tell. His face was like that of a man stricken with awe.
Mustapha turned round to them. The everlasting murmur was now so near
that it seemed to be within them, as if they, too, prayed at the tomb
"Follow me into the court, Madame," Mustapha said, "and remain at the
door while I fetch the slippers."
They turned a corner, and came to an open space before an archway,
which led into the first of the courts surrounding the mosque. Under
the archway Arabs were sitting silently, as if immersed in profound
reveries. They did not move, but stared upon the strangers, and Domini
fancied that there was enmity in their eyes. Beyond them, upon an
uneven pavement surrounded with lofty walls, more Arabs were gathered,
kneeling, bowing their heads to the ground, and muttering ceaseless
words in deep, almost growling, voices. Their fingers slipped over the
beads of the chaplets they wore round their necks, and Domini thought
of her rosary. Some prayed alone, removed in shady corners, with faces
turned to the wall. Others were gathered into knots. But each one
pursued his own devotions, immersed in a strange, interior solitude to
which surely penetrated an unseen ray of sacred light. There were
young boys praying, and old, wrinkled men, eagles of the desert, with
fierce eyes that did not soften as they cried the greatness of Allah,
the greatness of his Prophet, but gleamed as if their belief were a
thing of flame and bronze. The boys sometimes glanced at each other
while they prayed, and after each glance they swayed with greater
violence, and bowed down with more passionate abasement. The vision of
prayer had stirred them to a young longing for excess. The spirit of
emulation flickered through them and turned their worship into war.
In a second and smaller court before the portal of the mosque men were
learning the Koran. Dressed in white they sat in circles, holding
squares of some material that looked like cardboard covered with
minute Arab characters, pretty, symmetrical curves and lines, dots and
dashes. The teachers squatted in the midst, expounding the sacred text
in nasal voices with a swiftness and vivacity that seemed pugnacious.
There was violence within these courts. Domini could imagine the
worshippers springing up from their knees to tear to pieces an
intruding dog of an unbeliever, then sinking to their knees again
while the blood trickled over the sun-dried pavement and the lifeless
body, lay there to rot and draw the flies.
"Allah! Allah! Allah!"
There was something imperious in such ardent, such concentrated and
untiring worship, a demand which surely could not be overlooked or set
aside. The tameness, the half-heartedness of Western prayer and
Western praise had no place here. This prayer was hot as the sunlight,
this praise was a mounting fire. The breath of this human incense was
as the breath of a furnace pouring forth to the gates of the Paradise
of Allah. It gave to Domini a quite new conception of religion, of the
relation between Creator and created. The personal pride which, like
blood in a body, runs through all the veins of the mind of
Mohammedanism, that measureless hauteur which sets the soul of a
Sultan in the twisted frame of a beggar at a street corner, and makes
impressive, even almost majestical, the filthy marabout, quivering
with palsy and devoured by disease, who squats beneath a holy bush
thick with the discoloured rags of the faithful, was not abased at the
shrine of the warrior, Zerzour, was not cast off in the act of
adoration. These Arabs humbled themselves in the body. Their foreheads
touched the stones. By their attitudes they seemed as if they wished
to make themselves even with the ground, to shrink into the space
occupied by a grain of sand. Yet they were proud in the presence of
Allah, as if the firmness of their belief in him and his right
dealing, the fury of their contempt and hatred for those who looked
not towards Mecca nor regarded Ramadan, gave them a patent of
nobility. Despite their genuflections they were all as men who knew,
and never forgot, that on them was conferred the right to keep on
their head-covering in the presence of their King. With their closed
eyes they looked God full in the face. Their dull and growling murmur
had the majesty of thunder rolling through the sky.
Mustapha had disappeared within the mosque, leaving Domini and
Androvsky for the moment alone in the midst of the worshippers. From
the shadowy interior came forth a ceaseless sound of prayer to join
the prayer without. There was a narrow stone seat by the mosque door
and she sat down upon it. She felt suddenly weary, as one being
hypnotised feels weary when the body and spirit begin to yield to the
spell of the operator. Androvsky remained standing. His eyes were
fixed on the ground, and she thought his face looked almost phantom-
like, as if the blood had sunk away from it, leaving it white beneath
the brown tint set there by the sun. He stayed quite still. The dark
shadow cast by the towering mosque fell upon him, and his immobile
figure suggested to her ranges of infinite melancholy. She sighed as
one oppressed. There was an old man praying near them at the threshold
of the door, with his face turned towards the interior. He was very
thin, almost a skeleton, was dressed in rags through which his copper-
coloured body, sharp with scarce-covered bones, could be seen, and had
a scanty white beard sticking up, like a brush, at the tip of his
pointed chin. His face, worn with hardship and turned to the likeness
of parchment by time and the action of the sun, was full of senile
venom; and his toothless mouth, with its lips folded inwards, moved
perpetually, as if he were trying to bite. With rhythmical regularity,
like one obeying a conductor, he shot forth his arms towards the
mosque as if he wished to strike it, withdrew them, paused, then shot
them forth again. And as his arms shot forth he uttered a prolonged
and trembling shriek, full of weak, yet intense, fury.
He was surely crying out upon God, denouncing God for the evils that
had beset his nearly ended life. Poor, horrible old man! Androvsky was
closer to him than she was, but did not seem to notice him. Once she
had seen him she could not take her eyes from him. His perpetual
gesture, his perpetual shriek, became abominable to her in the midst
of the bowing bodies and the humming voices of prayer. Each time he
struck at the mosque and uttered his piercing cry she seemed to hear
an oath spoken in a sanctuary. She longed to stop him. This one
blasphemer began to destroy for her the mystic atmosphere created by
the multitudes of adorers, and at last she could no longer endure his
She touched Androvsky's arm. He started and looked at her.
"That old man," she whispered. "Can't you speak to him?"
Androvsky glanced at him for the first time.
"Speak to him, Madame? Why?"
She felt a sudden disinclination to tell Androvsky why the old man was
horrible to her.
"What do you wish me to say to him?"
"I thought perhaps you might be able to stop him from doing that."
Androvsky bent down and spoke to the old man in Arabic.
He shot out his arms and reiterated his trembling shriek. It pierced
the sound of prayer as lightning pierces cloud.
Domini got up quickly.
"I can't bear it," she said, still in a whisper. "It's as if he were
Androvsky looked at the old man again, this time with profound
"Isn't it?" she said. "Isn't it as if he were cursing God while the
whole world worshipped? And that one cry of hatred seems louder than
the praises of the whole world."
"We can't stop it."
Something in his voice made her say abruptly:
"Do you wish to stop it?"
He did not answer. The old man struck at the mosque and shrieked.
"I can't stay here," she said.
At this moment Mustapha appeared, followed by the guardian of the
mosque, who carried two pairs of tattered slippers.
"Monsieur and Madame must take off their boots. Then I will show the
Domini put on the slippers hastily, and went into the mosque without
waiting to see whether Androvsky was following. And the old man's
furious cry pursued her through the doorway.
Within there was space and darkness. The darkness seemed to be
praying. Vistas of yellowish-white arches stretched away in front, to
right and left. On the floor, covered with matting, quantities of
shrouded figures knelt and swayed, stood up suddenly, knelt again,
bowed down their foreheads. Preceded by Mustapha and the guide, who
walked on their stockinged feet, Domini slowly threaded her way among
them, following a winding path whose borders were praying men. To
prevent her slippers from falling off she had to shuffle along without
lifting her feet from the ground. With the regularity of a beating
pulse the old man's shriek, fainter now, came to her from without. But
presently, as she penetrated farther into the mosque, it was swallowed
up by the sound of prayer. No one seemed to see her or to know that
she was there. She brushed against the white garments of worshippers,
and when she did so she felt as if she touched the hem of the garments
of mystery, and she held her habit together with her hands lest she
should recall even one of these hearts that were surely very far off.
Mustapha and the guardian stood still and looked round at Domini.
Their faces were solemn. The expression of greedy anxiety had gone out
of Mustapha's eyes. For the moment the thought of money had been
driven out of his mind by some graver pre-occupation. She saw in the
semi-darkness two wooden doors set between pillars. They were painted
green and red, and fastened with clamps and bolts of hammered copper
that looked enormously old. Against them were nailed two pictures of
winged horses with human heads, and two more pictures representing a
fantastical town of Eastern houses and minarets in gold on a red
background. Balls of purple and yellow glass, and crystal chandeliers,
hung from the high ceiling above these doors, with many ancient lamps;
and two tattered and dusty banners of pale pink and white silk,
fringed with gold and powdered with a gold pattern of flowers, were
tied to the pillars with thin cords of camel's hair.
"This is the tomb of Sidi-Zerzour," whispered Mustapha. "It is opened
once a year."
The guardian of the mosque fell on his knees before the tomb.
"That is Mecca."
Mustapha pointed to the pictures of the city. Then he, too, dropped
down and pressed his forehead against the matting. Domini glanced
round for Androvsky. He was not there. She stood alone before the tomb
of Zerzour, the only human being in the great, dim building who was
not worshipping. And she felt a terrible isolation, as if she were
excommunicated, as if she dared not pray, for a moment almost as if
the God to whom this torrent of worship flowed were hostile to her
Had her father ever felt such a sensation of unutterable solitude?
It passed quickly, and, standing under the votive lamps before the
painted doors, she prayed too, silently. She shut her eyes and
imagined a church of her religion--the little church of Beni-Mora. She
tried to imagine the voice of prayer all about her, the voice of the
great Catholic Church. But that was not possible. Even when she saw
nothing, and turned her soul inward upon itself, and strove to set
this new world into which she had come far off, she heard in the long
murmur that filled it a sound that surely rose from the sand, from the
heart and the spirit of the sand, from the heart and the spirit of
desert places, and that went up in the darkness of the mosque and
floated under the arches through the doorway, above the palms and the
flat-roofed houses, and that winged its fierce way, like a desert
eagle, towards the sun.
Mustapha's hand was on her arm. The guardian, too, had risen from his
knees and drawn from his robe and lit a candle. She came to a tiny
doorway, passed through it and began to mount a winding stair. The
sound of prayer mounted with her from the mosque, and when she came
out upon the platform enclosed in the summit of the minaret she heard
it still and it was multiplied. For all the voices from the outside
courts joined it, and many voices from the roofs of the houses round
Men were praying there too, praying in the glare of the sun upon their
housetops. She saw them from the minaret, and she saw the town that
had sprung up round the tomb of the saint, and all the palms of the
oasis, and beyond them immeasurable spaces of desert.
She was above the eternal cry now. She had mounted like a prayer
towards the sun, like a living, pulsing prayer, like the soul of
prayer. She gazed at the far-off desert and saw prayer travelling, the
soul of prayer travelling--whither? Where was the end? Where was the
halting-place, with at last the pitched tent, the camp fires, and the
long, the long repose?
* * * * * *
When she came down and reached the court she found the old man still
striking at the mosque and shrieking out his trembling imprecation.
And she found Androvsky still standing by him with fascinated eyes.
She had mounted with the voice of prayer into the sunshine, surely a
little way towards God.
Androvsky had remained in the dark shadow with a curse.
It was foolish, perhaps--a woman's vagrant fancy--but she wished he
had mounted with her.
BOOK III. THE GARDEN
It was noon in the desert.
The voice of the Mueddin died away on the minaret, and the golden
silence that comes out of the heart of the sun sank down once more
softly over everything. Nature seemed unnaturally still in the heat.
The slight winds were not at play, and the palms of Beni-Mora stood
motionless as palm trees in a dream. The day was like a dream, intense
and passionate, yet touched with something unearthly, something almost
spiritual. In the cloudless blue of the sky there seemed a magical
depth, regions of colour infinitely prolonged. In the vision of the
distances, where desert blent with sky, earth surely curving up to
meet the downward curving heaven, the dimness was like a voice
whispering strange petitions. The ranges of mountains slept in the
burning sand, and the light slept in their clefts like the languid in
cool places. For there was a glorious languor even in the light, as if
the sun were faintly oppressed by the marvel of his power. The
clearness of the atmosphere in the remote desert was not obscured, but
was impregnated with the mystery that is the wonder child of shadows.
The far-off gold that kept it seemed to contain a secret darkness. In
the oasis of Beni-Mora men, who had slowly roused themselves to pray,
sank down to sleep again in the warm twilight of shrouded gardens or
the warm night of windowless rooms.
In the garden of Count Anteoni Larbi's flute was silent.
"It is like noon in a mirage," Domini said softly.
Count Anteoni nodded.
"I feel as if I were looking at myself a long way off," she added. "As
if I saw myself as I saw the grey sea and the islands on the way to
Sidi-Zerzour. What magic there is here. And I can't get accustomed to
it. Each day I wonder at it more and find it more inexplicable. It
almost frightens me."
"You could be frightened?"
"Not easily by outside things--it least I hope not."
"But what then?"
"I scarcely know. Sometimes I think all the outside things, which do
what are called the violent deeds in life, are tame, and timid, and
ridiculously impotent in comparison with the things we can't see,
which do the deeds we can't describe."
"In the mirage of this land you begin to see the exterior life as a
mirage? You are learning, you are learning."
There was a creeping sound of something that was almost impish in his
"Are you a secret agent?" Domini asked him.
"Of whom, Madame?"
She was silent. She seemed to be considering. He watched her with
curiosity in his bright eyes.
"Of the desert," she answered at length, quite seriously.
"A secret agent has always a definite object. What is mine?"
"How can I know? How can I tell what the desert desires?"
"Already you personify it!"
The network of wrinkles showed itself in his brown face as he smiled,
surely with triumph.
"I think I did that from the first," she answered gravely. "I know I
"And what sort of personage does the desert seem to you?"
"You ask me a great many questions to-day."
"Mirage questions, perhaps. Forgive me. Let us listen to the question
--or is it the demand?--of the desert in this noontide hour, the
greatest hour of all the twenty-four in such a land as this."
They were silent again, watching the noon, listening to it, feeling
it, as they had been silent when the Mueddin's nasal voice rose in the
call to prayer.
Count Anteoni stood in the sunshine by the low white parapet of the
garden. Domini sat on a low chair in the shadow cast by a great
jamelon tree. At her feet was a bush of vivid scarlet geraniums,
against which her white linen dress looked curiously blanched. There
was a half-drowsy, yet imaginative light in her gipsy eyes, and her
motionless figure, her quiet hands, covered with white gloves, lying
loosely in her lap, looked attentive and yet languid, as if some spell
began to bind her but had not completed its work of stilling all the
pulses of life that throbbed within her. And in truth there was a
spell upon her, the spell of the golden noon. By turns she gave
herself to it consciously, then consciously strove to deny herself to
its subtle summons. And each time she tried to withdraw it seemed to
her that the spell was a little stronger, her power a little weaker.
Then her lips curved in a smile that was neither joyous nor sad, that
was perhaps rather part perplexed and part expectant.
After a minute of this silence Count Anteoni drew back from the sun
and sat down in a chair beside Domini. He took out his watch.
"Twenty-five minutes," he said, "and my guests will be here."
"Guests!" she said with an accent of surprise.
"I invited the priest to make an even number."
"You don't dislike him?"
"I like him. I respect him."
"But I'm afraid you aren't pleased?"
Domini looked him straight in the face.
"Why did you invite Father Roubier?" she said.
"Isn't four better than three?"
"You don't want to tell me."
"I am a little malicious. You have divined it, so why should I not
acknowledge it? I asked Father Roubier because I wished to see the man
of prayer with the man who fled from prayer."
"Mussulman prayer," she said quickly.
"Prayer," he said.
His voice was peculiarly harsh at that moment. It grated like an
instrument on a rough surface. Domini knew that secretly he was
standing up for the Arab faith, that her last words had seemed to
strike against the religion of the people whom he loved with an odd,
concealed passion whose fire she began to feel at moments as she grew
to know him better.
It was plain from their manner to each other that their former slight
acquaintance had moved towards something like a pleasant friendship.
Domini looked as if she were no longer a wonder-stricken sight-seer in
this marvellous garden of the sun, but as if she had become familiar
with it. Yet her wonder was not gone. It was only different. There was
less sheer amazement, more affection in it. As she had said, she had
not become accustomed to the magic of Africa. Its strangeness, its
contrasts still startled and moved her. But she began to feel as if
she belonged to Beni-Mora, as if Beni-Mora would perhaps miss her a
little if she went away.
Ten days had passed since the ride to Sidi-Zerzour--days rather like a
dream to Domini.
What she had sought in coming to Beni-Mora she was surely finding. Her
act was bringing forth its fruit. She had put a gulf, in which rolled
the sea, between the land of the old life and the land in which at
least the new life was to begin. The completeness of the severance had
acted upon her like a blow that does not stun, but wakens. The days
went like a dream, but in the dream there was the stir of birth. Her
lassitude was permanently gone. There had been no returning after the
first hours of excitement. The frost that had numbed her senses had
utterly melted away. Who could be frost-bound in this land of fire?
She had longed for peace and she was surely finding it, but it was a
peace without stagnation. Hope dwelt in it, and expectancy, vague but
persistent. As to forgetfulness, sometimes she woke from the dream and
was almost dazed, almost ashamed to think how much she was forgetting,
and how quickly. Her European life and friends--some of them intimate
and close--were like a far-off cloud on the horizon, flying still
farther before a steady wind that set from her to it. Soon it would
disappear, would be as if it had never been. Now and then, with a sort
of fierce obstinacy, she tried to stay the flight she had desired, and
desired still. She said to herself, "I will remember. It's
contemptible to forget like this. It's weak to be able to." Then she
looked at the mountains or the desert, at two Arabs playing the
ladies' game under the shadow of a cafe wall, or at a girl in dusty
orange filling a goatskin pitcher at a well beneath a palm tree, and
she succumbed to the lulling influence, smiling as they smile who hear
the gentle ripple of the waters of Lethe.
She heard them perhaps most clearly when she wandered in Count
Anteoni's garden. He had made her free of it in their first interview.
She had ventured to take him at his word, knowing that if he repented
she would divine it. He had made her feel that he had not repented.
Sometimes she did not see him as she threaded the sandy alleys between
the little rills, hearing the distant song of Larbi's amorous flute,
or sat in the dense shade of the trees watching through a window-space
of quivering golden leaves the passing of the caravans along the
desert tracks. Sometimes a little wreath of ascending smoke, curling
above the purple petals of bougainvilleas, or the red cloud of
oleanders, told her of his presence, in some retired thinking-place.
Oftener he joined her, with an easy politeness that did not conceal
his oddity, but clothed it in a pleasant garment, and they talked for
a while or stayed for a while in an agreeable silence that each felt
to be sympathetic.
Domini thought of him as a new species of man--a hermit of the world.
He knew the world and did not hate it. His satire was rarely quite
ungentle. He did not strike her as a disappointed man who fled to
solitude in bitterness of spirit, but rather as an imaginative man
with an unusual feeling for romance, and perhaps a desire for freedom
that the normal civilised life restrained too much. He loved thought
as many love conversation, silence as some love music. Now and then he
said a sad or bitter thing. Sometimes she seemed to be near to
something stern. Sometimes she felt as if there were a secret link
which connected him with the perfume-seller in his little darkened
chamber, with the legions who prayed about the tomb of Sidi-Zerzour.
But these moments were rare. As a rule he was whimsical and kind, with
the kindness of a good-hearted man who was human even in his
detachment from ordinary humanity. His humour was a salt with plenty
of savour. His imagination was of a sort which interested and even
She felt, too, that she interested him and that he was a man not
readily interested in ordinary human beings. He had seen too many and
judged too shrewdly and too swiftly to be easily held for very long.
She had no ambition to hold him, and had never in her life consciously
striven to attract or retain any man, but she was woman enough to find
his obvious pleasure in her society agreeable. She thought that her
genuine adoration of the garden he had made, of the land in which it
was set, had not a little to do with the happy nature of their
intercourse. For she felt certain that beneath the light satire of his
manner, his often smiling airs of detachment and quiet independence,
there was something that could seek almost with passion, that could
cling with resolution, that could even love with persistence. And she
fancied that he sought in the desert, that he clung to its mystery,
that he loved it and the garden he had created in it. Once she had
laughingly called him a desert spirit. He had smiled as if with
They knew little of each other, yet they had become friends in the
garden which he never left.
One day she said to him:
"You love the desert. Why do you never go into it?"
"I prefer to watch it," he relied. "When you are in the desert it
She remembered what she had felt during her first ride with Androvsky.
"I believe you are afraid of it," she said challengingly.
"Fear is sometimes the beginning of wisdom," he answered. "But you are
without it, I know."
"How do you know?"
"Every day I see you galloping away into the sun."
She thought there was a faint sound of warning--or was it of rebuke--
in his voice. It made her feel defiant.
"I think you lose a great deal by not galloping into the sun too," she
"But if I don't ride?"
That made her think of Androvsky and his angry resolution. It had not
been the resolution of a day. Wearied and stiffened as he had been by
the expedition to Sidi-Zerzour, actually injured by his fall--she knew
from Batouch that he had been obliged to call in the Beni-Mora doctor
to bandage his shoulder--she had been roused at dawn on the day
following by his tread on the verandah. She had lain still while it
descended the staircase, but then the sharp neighing of a horse had
awakened an irresistible curiosity in her. She had got up, wrapped
herself in a fur coat and slipped out on to the verandah. The sun was
not above the horizon line of the desert, but the darkness of night
was melting into a luminous grey. The air was almost cold. The palms
looked spectral, even terrible, the empty and silent gardens
melancholy and dangerous. It was not an hour for activity, for
determination, but for reverie, for apprehension.
Below, a sleepy Arab boy, his hood drawn over his head, held the
chestnut horse by the bridle. Androvsky came out from the arcade. He
wore a cap pulled down to his eyebrows which changed his appearance,
giving him, as seen from above, the look of a groom or stable hand. He
stood for a minute and stared at the horse. Then he limped round to
the left side and carefully mounted, following out the directions
Domini had given him the previous day: to avoid touching the animal
with his foot, to have the rein in his fingers before leaving the
ground, and to come down in the saddle as lightly as possible. She
noted that all her hints were taken with infinite precaution. Once on
the horse he tried to sit up straight, but found the effort too great
in his weary and bruised condition. He leaned forward over the saddle
peak, and rode away in the luminous greyness towards the desert. The
horse went quietly, as if affected by the mystery of the still hour.
Horse and rider disappeared. The Arab boy wandered off in the
direction of the village. But Domini remained looking after Androvsky.
She saw nothing but the grim palms and the spectral atmosphere in
which the desert lay. Yet she did not move till a red spear was thrust
up out of the east towards the last waning star.
He had gone to learn his lesson in the desert.
Three days afterwards she rode with him again. She did not let him
know of her presence on the verandah, and he said nothing of his
departure in the dawn. He spoke very little and seemed much occupied
with his horse, and she saw that he was more than determined--that he
was apt at acquiring control of a physical exercise new to him. His
great strength stood him in good stead. Only a man hard in the body
could have so rapidly recovered from the effects of that first day of
defeat and struggle. His absolute reticence about his efforts and the
iron will that prompted them pleased Domini. She found them worthy of
She rode with him on three occasions, twice in the oasis through the
brown villages, once out into the desert on the caravan road that
Batouch had told her led at last to Tombouctou. They did not travel
far along it, but Domini knew at once that this route held more
fascination for her than the route to Sidi-Zerzour. There was far more
sand in this region of the desert. The little humps crowned with the
scrub the camels feed on were fewer, so that the flatness of the
ground was more definite. Here and there large dunes of golden-
coloured sand rose, some straight as city walls, some curved like
seats in an amphitheatre, others indented, crenellated like
battlements, undulating in beastlike shapes. The distant panorama of
desert was unbroken by any visible oasis and powerfully suggested
Eternity to Domini.
"When I go out into the desert for my long journey I shall go by this
road," she said to Androvsky.
"You are going on a journey?" he said, looking at her as if startled.
"I suppose I must take a caravan, two or three Arabs, some horses, a
tent or two. It's easy to manage. Batouch will arrange it for me."
Androvsky still looked startled, and half angry, she thought.
They had pulled up their horses among the sand dunes. It was near
sunset, and the breath of evening was in the sir, making its coolness
even more ethereal, more thinly pure than in the daytime. The
atmosphere was so clear that when they glanced back they could see the
flag fluttering upon the white of the great hotel of Beni-Mora, many
kilometres away among the palms; so still that they could hear the
bark of a Kabyle off near a nomad's tent pitched in the green land by
the water-springs of old Beni-Mora. When they looked in front of them
they seemed to see thousands of leagues of flatness, stretching on and
on till the pale yellowish brown of it grew darker, merged into a
strange blueness, like the blue of a hot mist above a southern lake,
then into violet, then into--the thing they could not see, the
summoning thing whose voice Domini's imagination heard, like a remote
and thrilling echo, whenever she was in the desert.
"I did not know you were going on a journey, Madame," Androvsky said.
"Don't you remember?" she rejoined laughingly, "that I told you on the
tower I thought peace must dwell out there. Well, some day I shall set
out to find it."
"That seems a long time ago, Madame," he muttered.
Sometimes, when speaking to her, he dropped his voice till she could
scarcely hear him, and sounded like a man communing with himself.
A red light from the sinking sun fell upon the dunes. As they rode
back over them their horses seemed to be wading through a silent sea
of blood. The sky in the west looked like an enormous conflagration,
in which tortured things were struggling and lifting twisted arms.
Domini's acquaintance with Androvsky had not progressed as easily and
pleasantly as her intercourse with Count Anteoni. She recognised that
he was what is called a "difficult man." Now and then, as if under the
prompting influence of some secret and violent emotion, he spoke with
apparent naturalness, spoke perhaps out of his heart. Each time he did
so she noticed that there was something of either doubt or amazement
in what he said. She gathered that he was slow to rely, quick to
mistrust. She gathered, too, that very many things surprised him, and
felt sure that he hid nearly all of them from her, and would--had not
his own will sometimes betrayed him--have hidden all. His reserve was
as intense as everything about him. There was a fierceness in it that
revealed its existence. He always conveyed to her a feeling of
strength, physical and mental. Yet he always conveyed, too, a feeling
of uneasiness. To a woman of Domini's temperament uneasiness usually
implies a public or secret weakness. In Androvsky's she seemed to be
aware of passion, as if it were one to dash obstacles aside, to break
through doors of iron, to rush out into the open. And then--what then?
To tremble at the world before him? At what he had done? She did not
know. But she did know that even in his uneasiness there seemed to be
fibre, muscle, sinew, nerve--all which goes to make strength,
Speech was singularly difficult to him. Silence seemed to be natural,
not irksome. After a few words he fell into it and remained in it. And
he was less self-conscious in silence than in speech. He seemed, she
fancied, to feel himself safer, more a man when he was not speaking.
To him the use of words was surely like a yielding.
He had a peculiar faculty of making his presence felt when he was
silent, as if directly he ceased from speaking the flame in him was
fanned and leaped up at the outside world beyond its bars.
She did not know whether he was a gentleman or not.
If anyone had asked her, before she came to Beni-Mora, whether it
would be possible for her to take four solitary rides with a man, to
meet him--if only for a few minutes--every day of ten days, to sit
opposite to him, and not far from him, at meals during the same space
of time, and to be unable to say to herself whether he was or was not
a gentleman by birth and education--feeling set aside--she would have
answered without hesitation that it would be utterly impossible. Yet
so it was. She could not decide. She could not place him. She could
not imagine what his parentage, what his youth, his manhood had been.
She could not fancy him in any environment--save that golden light,
that blue radiance, in which she had first consciously and fully met
him face to face. She could not hear him in converse with any set of
men or women, or invent, in her mind, what he might be likely to say
to them. She could not conceive him bound by any ties of home, or
family, mother, sister, wife, child. When she looked at him, thought
about him, he presented himself to her alone, like a thing in the air.
Yet he was more male than other men, breathed humanity--of some kind--
as fire breathes heat.
The child there was in him almost confused her, made her wonder
whether long contact with the world had tarnished her own original
simplicity. But she only saw the child in him now and then, and she
fancied that it, too, he was anxious to conceal.
This man had certainly a power to rouse feeling in others. She knew it
by her own experience. By turns he had made her feel motherly,
protecting, curious, constrained, passionate, energetic, timid--yes,
almost timid and shy. No other human being had ever, even at moments,
thus got the better of her natural audacity, lack of self-
consciousness, and inherent, almost boyish, boldness. Nor was she
aware what it was in him which sometimes made her uncertain of
She wondered. But he often woke up wonder in her.
Despite their rides, their moments of intercourse in the hotel, on the
verandah, she scarcely felt more intimate with him than she had at
first. Sometimes indeed she thought that she felt less so, that the
moment when the train ran out of the tunnel into the blue country was
the moment in which they had been nearest to each other since they
trod the verges of each other's lives.
She had never definitely said to herself: "Do I like him or dislike
Now, as she sat with Count Anteoni watching the noon, the half-drowsy,
half-imaginative expression had gone out of her face. She looked
rather rigid, rather formidable.
Androvsky and Count Anteoni had never met. The Count had seen
Androvsky in the distance from his garden more than once, but
Androvsky had not seen him. The meeting that was about to take place
was due to Domini. She had spoken to Androvsky on several occasions of
the romantic beauty of this desert garden.
"It is like a garden of the /Arabian Nights/," she had said.
He did not look enlightened, and she was moved to ask him abruptly
whether he had ever read the famous book. He had not. A doubt came to
her whether he had ever even heard of it. She mentioned the fact of
Count Anteoni's having made the garden, and spoke of him, sketching
lightly his whimsicality, his affection for the Arabs, his love of
solitude, and of African life. She also mentioned that he was by birth
"But scarcely of the black world I should imagine," she added.
Androvsky said nothing.
"You should go and see the garden," she continued. "Count Anteoni
allows visitors to explore it."
"I am sure it must be very beautiful, Madame," he replied, rather
coldly, she thought.
He did not say that he would go.
As the garden won upon her, as its enchanted mystery, the airy wonder
of its shadowy places, the glory of its trembling golden vistas, the
restfulness of its green defiles, the strange, almost unearthly peace
that reigned within it embalmed her spirit, as she learned not only to
marvel at it, to be entranced by it, but to feel at home in it and
love it, she was conscious of a persistent desire that Androvsky
should know it too.
Perhaps his dogged determination about the riding had touched her more
than she was aware. She often saw before her the bent figure, that
looked tired, riding alone into the luminous grey; starting thus early
that his act, humble and determined, might not be known by her. He did
not know that she had seen him, not only on that morning, but on many
subsequent mornings, setting forth to study the new art in the
solitude of the still hours. But the fact that she had seen, had
watched till horse and rider vanished beyond the palms, had understood
why, perhaps moved her to this permanent wish that he could share her
pleasure in the garden, know it as she did.
She did not argue with herself about the matter. She only knew that
she wished, that presently she meant Androvsky to pass through the
white gate and be met on the sand by Smain with his rose.
One day Count Anteoni had asked her whether she had made acquaintance
with the man who had fled from prayer.
"Yes," she said. "You know it."
"We have ridden to Sidi-Zerzour."
"I am not always by the wall."
"No, but I think you were that day."
"Why do you think so?"
"I am sure you were."
He did not either acknowledge or deny it.
"He has never been to see my garden," he said.
"He ought to come."
"I have told him so."
"Ah? Is he coming?"
"I don't think so."
"Persuade him to. I have a pride in my garden--oh, you have no idea
what a pride! Any neglect of it, any indifference about it rasps me,
plays upon the raw nerve each one of us possesses."
He spoke smilingly. She did not know what he was feeling, whether the
remote thinker or the imp within him was at work or play.
"I doubt if he is a man to be easily persuaded," she said.
"Perhaps not--persuade him."
After a moment Domini said:
"I wonder whether you recognise that there are obstacles which the
human will can't negotiate?"
"I could scarcely live where I do without recognising that the grains
of sand are often driven by the wind. But when there is no wind!"
"They lie still?"
"And are the desert. I want to have a strange experience."
"A /fete/ in my garden."
"Something far more banal. A lunch party, a /dejeuner/. Will you
"By breakfasting with you? Yes, of course. Thank you."
"And will you bring--the second sun worshipper?"
She looked into the Count's small, shining eyes.
"If that is his name. I can send him an invitation, of course. But
that's rather formal, and I don't think he is formal."
"On what day do you ask us?"
"And why do you ask us?"
"I wish to overcome this indifference to my garden. It hurts me, not
only in my pride, but in my affections."
The whole thing had been like a sort of serious game. Domini had not
said that she would convey the odd invitation; but when she was alone,
and thought of the way in which Count Anteoni had said "Persuade him,"
she knew she would, and she meant Androvsky to accept it. This was an
opportunity of seeing him in company with another man, a man of the
world, who had read, travelled, thought, and doubtless lived.
She asked him that evening, and saw the red, that came as it comes in
a boy's face, mount to his forehead.
"Everybody who comes to Beni-Mora comes to see the garden," she said
before he could reply. "Count Anteoni is half angry with you for being
"But--but, Madame, how can Monsieur the Count know that I am here? I
have not seen him."
"He knows there is a second traveller, and he's a hospitable man.
Monsieur Androvsky, I want you to come; I want you to see the garden."
"It is very kind of you, Madame."
The reluctance in his voice was extreme. Yet he did not like to say
no. While he hesitated, Domini continued:
"You remember when I asked you to ride?"
"That was new to you. Well, it has given you pleasure, hasn't it?"
"So will the garden. I want to put another pleasure into your life."
She had begun to speak with the light persuasiveness of a woman of the
world--wishing to overcome a man's diffidence or obstinacy, but while
she said the words she felt a sudden earnestness rush over her. It