Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Garden Of Allah by Robert Hichens

Part 9 out of 12

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.


"And I saw two signals. There were two brands being waved together."

"To-night, we have comrades in the desert."

"Comrades!" he said.

His voice sounded startled.

"Men who have escaped from a horrible death in the dunes."



Quickly she told him her story. He listened in silence. When she had
finished he said nothing. But she saw him look at the dining-table
laid for three and his expression was dark and gloomy.

"Boris, you don't mind!" she said in surprise. "Surely you would not
refuse hospitality to these poor fellows!"

She put her hand through his arm and pressed it.

"Have I done wrong? But I know I haven't!"

"Wrong! How could you do that?"

He seemed to make an effort, to conquer something within him.

"It's I who am wrong, Domini. The truth is, I can't bear our happiness
to be intruded upon even for a night. I want to be alone with you.
This life of ours in the desert has made me desperately selfish. I
want to be alone, quite alone, with you."

"It's that! How glad I am!"

She laid her cheek against his arm.

"Then," he said, "that other signal?"

"Monsieur de Trevignac gave it."

Androvsky took his arm from hers abruptly.

"Monsieur de Trevignac!" he said. "Monsieur de Trevignac?"

He stood as if in deep and anxious thought.

"Yes, the officer. That's his name. What is it, Boris?"


There was a sound of voices approaching the camp in the darkness. They
were speaking French.

"I must," said Androvsky, "I must----"

He made an uncertain movement, as if to go towards the dunes, checked
it, and went hurriedly into the dressing-tent. As he disappeared De
Trevignac came into the camp with his men. Batouch conducted the
latter with all ceremony towards the fire which burned before the
tents of the attendants, and, for the moment, Domini was left alone
with De Trevignac.

"My husband is coming directly," she said. "He was late in returning,
but he brought gazelle. Now you must sit down at once."

She led the way to the dining-tent. De Trevignac glanced at the table
laid for three with an eager anticipation which he was far too natural
to try to conceal.

"Madame," he said, "if I disgrace myself to-night, if I eat like an
ogre in a fairy tale, will you forgive me?"

"I will not forgive you if you don't."

She spoke gaily, made him sit down in a folding-chair, and insisted on
putting a soft cushion at his back. Her manner was cheerful, almost
eagerly kind and full of a camaraderie rare in a woman, yet he noticed
a change in her since they stood together waving the brands by the
tower. And he said to himself:

"The husband--perhaps he's not so pleased at my appearance. I wonder
how long they've been married?"

And he felt his curiosity to see "Monsieur Androvsky" deepen.

While they waited for him Domini made De Trevignac tell her the story
of his terrible adventure in the dunes. He did so simply, like a
soldier, without exaggeration. When he had finished she said:

"You thought death was certain then?"

"Quite certain, Madame."

She looked at him earnestly.

"To have faced a death like that in utter desolation, utter
loneliness, must make life seem very different afterwards."

"Yes, Madame. But I did not feel utterly alone."

"Your men!"

"No, Madame."

After a pause he added, simply:

"My mother is a devout Catholic, Madame. I am her only child, and--she
taught me long ago that in any peril one is never quite alone."

Domini's heart warmed to him. She loved this trust in God so frankly
shown by a soldier, member of an African regiment, in this wild land.
She loved this brave reliance on the unseen in the midst of the terror
of the seen. Before they spoke again Androvsky crossed the dark space
between the tents and came slowly into the circle of the lamplight.

De Trevignac got up from his chair, and Domini introduced the two men.
As they bowed each shot a swift glance at the other. Then Androvsky
looked down, and two vertical lines appeared on his high forehead
above his eyebrows. They gave to his face a sudden look of acute
distress. De Trevignac thanked him for his proffered hospitality with
the ease of a man of the world, assuming that the kind invitation to
him and to his men came from the husband as well as from the wife.
When he had finished speaking, Androvsky, without looking up, said, in
a voice that sounded to Domini new, as if he had deliberately assumed

"I am glad, Monsieur. We found gazelle, and so I hope--I hope you will
have a fairly good dinner."

The words could scarcely have been more ordinary, but the way in which
they were uttered was so strange, sounded indeed so forced, and so
unnatural, that both De Trevignac and Domini looked at the speaker in
surprise. There was a pause. Then Batouch and Ouardi came in with the

"Come!" Domini said. "Let us begin. Monsieur de Trevignac, will you
sit here on my right?"

They sat down. The two men were opposite to each other at the ends of
the small table, with a lamp between them. Domini faced the tent door,
and could see in the distance the tents of the attendants lit up by
the blaze of the fire, and the forms of the French soldiers sitting at
their table close to it, with the Arabs clustering round them. Sounds
of loud conversation and occasional roars of laughter, that was almost
childish in its frank lack of all restraint, told her that one feast
was a success. She looked at her companions and made a sudden resolve
--almost fierce--that the other, over which she was presiding, should
be a success, too. But why was Androvsky so strange with other men?
Why did he seem to become almost a different human being directly he
was brought into any close contact with his kind? Was it shyness? Had
he a profound hatred of all society? She remembered Count Anteoni's
luncheon and the distress Androvsky had caused her by his cold
embarrassment, his unwillingness to join in conversation on that
occasion. But then he was only her friend. Now he was her husband. She
longed for him to show himself at his best. That he was not a man of
the world she knew. Had he not told her of his simple upbringing in El
Kreir, a remote village of Tunisia, by a mother who had been left in
poverty after the death of his father, a Russian who had come to
Africa to make a fortune by vine-growing, and who had had his hopes
blasted by three years of drought and by the visitation of the dreaded
phylloxera? Had he not told her of his own hard work on the rich
uplands among the Spanish workmen, of how he had toiled early and late
in all kinds of weather, not for himself, but for a company that drew
a fortune from the land and gave him a bare livelihood? Till she met
him he had never travelled--he had never seen almost anything of life.
A legacy from a relative had at last enabled him to have some freedom
and to gratify a man's natural taste for change. And, strangely,
perhaps, he had come first to the desert. She could not--she did not--
expect him to show the sort of easy cultivation that a man acquires
only by long contact with all sorts and conditions of men and women.
But she knew that he was not only full of fire and feeling--a man with
a great temperament, but also that he was a man who had found time to
study, whose mind was not empty. He was a man who had thought
profoundly. She knew this, although even with her, even in the great
intimacy that is born of a great mutual passion, she knew him for a
man of naturally deep reserve, who could not perhaps speak all his
thoughts to anyone, even to the woman he loved. And knowing this, she
felt a fighting temper rise up in her. She resolved to use her will
upon this man who loved her, to force him to show his best side to the
guest who had come to them out of the terror of the dunes. She would
be obstinate for him.

Her lips went down a little at the corners. De Trevignac glanced at
her above his soup-plate, and then at Androvsky. He was a man who had
seen much of society, and who divined at once the gulf that must have
separated the kind of life led in the past by his hostess from the
kind of life led by his host. Such gulfs, he knew, are bridged with
difficulty. In this case a great love must have been the bridge. His
interest in these two people, encountered by him in the desolation of
the wastes, and when all his emotions had been roused by the nearness
of peril, would have been deep in any case. But there was something
that made it extraordinary, something connected with Androvsky. It
seemed to him that he had seen, perhaps known Androvsky at some time
in his life. Yet Androvsky's face was not familiar to him. He could
not yet tell from what he drew this impression, but it was strong. He
searched his memory.

Just at first fatigue was heavy upon him, but the hot soup, the first
glass of wine revived him. When Domini, full of her secret obstinacy,
began to talk gaily he was soon able easily to take his part, and to
join her in her effort to include Androvsky in the conversation. The
cheerful noise of the camp came to them from without.

"I'm afraid my men are lifting up their voices rather loudly," said De

"We like it," said Domini. "Don't we, Boris?"

There was a long peal of laughter from the distance. As it died away
Batouch's peculiar guttural chuckle, which had something negroid in
it, was audible, prolonging itself in a loneliness that spoke his
pertinacious sense of humour.

"Certainly," said Androvsky, still in the same strained and unnatural
voice which had surprised Domini when she introduced the two men. "We
are accustomed to gaiety round the camp fire."

"You are making a long stay in the desert, Monsieur?" asked De

"I hope so, Monsieur. It depends on my--it depends on Madame

"Why didn't he say 'my wife'?" thought De Trevignac. And again he
searched his memory. Had he ever met this man? If so, where?"

"I should like to stay in the desert for ever," Domini said quickly,
with a long look at her husband.

"I should not, Madame," De Trevignac said.

"I understand. The desert has shown you its terrors."

"Indeed it has."

"But to us it has only shown its enchantment. Hasn't it?" She spoke to
Androvsky. After a pause he replied:


The word, when it came, sounded like a lie.

For the first time since her marriage Domini felt a cold, like a cold
of ice about her heart. Was it possible that Androvsky had not shared
her joy in the desert? Had she been alone in her happiness? For a
moment she sat like one stunned by a blow. Then knowledge, reason,
spoke in her. She knew of Androvsky's happiness with her, knew it
absolutely. There are some things in which a woman cannot be deceived.
When Androvsky was with her he wanted no other human being. Nothing
could take that certainty from her.

"Of course," she said, recovered, "there are places in the desert in
which melancholy seems to brood, in which one has a sense of the
terrors of the wastes. Mogar, I think, is one of them, perhaps the
only one we have been in yet. This evening, when I was sitting under
the tower, even I"--and as she said "even I" she smiled happily at
Androvsky--"knew some forebodings."

"Forebodings?" Androvsky said quickly. "Why should you--?" He broke

"Not of coming misfortune, I hope, Madame?" said De Trevignac in a
voice that was now irresistibly cheerful.

He was helping himself to some gazelle, which sent forth an appetising
odour, and Ouardi was proudly pouring out for him the first glass of
blithely winking champagne.

"I hardly know, but everything looked sad and strange; I began to
think about the uncertainties of life."

Domini and De Trevignac were sipping their champagne. Ouardi came
behind Androvsky to fill his glass.

"Non! non!" he said, putting his hand over it and shaking his head.

De Trevignac started.

Ouardi looked at Domini and made a distressed grimace, pointing with a
brown finger at the glass.

"Oh, Boris! you must drink champagne to-night!" she exclaimed.

"I would rather not," he answered. "I am not accustomed to it."

"But to drink our guest's health after his escape from death!"

Androvsky took his hand from the glass and Ouardi filled it with wine.

Then Domini raised her glass and drank to De Trevignac. Androvsky
followed her example, but without geniality, and when he put his lips
to the wine he scarcely tasted it. Then he put the glass down and told
Ouardi to give him red wine. And during the rest of the evening he
drank no more champagne. He also ate very little, much less than
usual, for in the desert they both had the appetites of hunters.

After thanking them cordially for drinking his health, De Trevignac

"I was nearly experiencing the certainty of death. But was it Mogar
that turned you to such thoughts, Madame?"

"I think so. There is something sad, even portentous about it."

She looked towards the tent door, imagining the immense desolation
that was hidden in the darkness outside, the white plains, the mirage
sea, the sand dunes like monsters, the bleached bones of the dead
camels with the eagles hovering above them.

"Don't you think so, Boris? Don't you think it looks like a place in
which--like a tragic place, a place in which tragedies ought to

"It is not places that make tragedies," he said, "or at least they
make tragedies far more seldom than the people in them."

He stopped, seemed to make an effort to throw off his taciturnity, and
suddenly to be able to throw it off, at least partially. For he
continued speaking with greater naturalness and ease, even with a
certain dominating force.

"If people would use their wills they need not be influenced by place,
they need not be governed by a thousand things, by memories, by fears,
by fancies--yes, even by fancies that are the merest shadows, but out
of which they make phantoms. Half the terrors and miseries of life lie
only in the minds of men. They even cause the very tragedies they
would avoid by expecting them."

He said the last words with a sort of strong contempt--then, more
quietly, he added:

"You, Domini, why should you feel the uncertainty of life, especially
at Mogar? You need not. You can choose not to. Life is the same in its
chances here as everywhere?"

"But you," she answered--"did you not feel a tragic influence when we
arrived here? Do you remember how you looked at the tower?"

"The tower!" he said, with a quick glance at De Trevignac. "I--why
should I look at the tower?"

"I don't know, but you did, almost as if you were afraid of it."

"My tower!" said De Trevignac.

Another roar of laughter reached them from the camp fire. It made
Domini smile in sympathy, but De Trevignac and Androvsky looked at
each other for a moment, the one with a sort of earnest inquiry, the
other with hostility, or what seemed hostility, across the circle of
lamplight that lay between them.

"A tower rising in the desert emphasises the desolation. I suppose
that was it," Androvsky said, as the laugh died down into Batouch's
throaty chuckle. "it suggests lonely people watching."

"For something that never comes, or something terrible that comes," De
Trevignac said.

As he spoke the last words Androvsky moved uneasily in his chair, and
looked out towards the camp, as if he longed to get up and go into the
open air, as if the tent roof above his head oppressed him.

Trevignac turned to Domini.

"In this case, Madame, you were the lonely watcher, and I was the
something terrible that came."

She laughed. While she laughed De Trevignac noticed that Androvsky
looked at her with a sort of sad intentness, not reproachful or
wondering, as an older person might look at a child playing at the
edge of some great gulf into which a false step would precipitate it.
He strove to interpret this strange look, so obviously born in the
face of his host in connection with himself. It seemed to him that he
must have met Androvsky, and that Androvsky knew it, knew--what he did
not yet know--where it was and when. It seemed to him, too, that
Androvsky thought of him as the "something terrible" that had come to
this woman who sat between them out of the desert.

But how could it be?

A profound curiosity was roused in him and he mentally cursed his
treacherous memory--if it were treacherous. For possibly he might be
mistaken. He had perhaps never met his host before, and this strange
manner of his might be due to some inexplicable cause, or perhaps to
some cause explicable and even commonplace. This Monsieur Androvsky
might be a very jealous man, who had taken this woman away into the
desert to monopolise her, and who resented even the chance intrusion
of a stranger. De Trevignac knew life and the strange passions of men,
knew that there are Europeans with the Arab temperament, who secretly
long that their women should wear the veil and live secluded in the
harem. Androvsky might be one of these.

When she had laughed Domini said:

"On the contrary, Monsieur, you have turned my thoughts into a happier
current by your coming."

"How so?"

"You made me think of what are called the little things of life that
are more to us women than to you men, I suppose."

"Ah," he said. "This food, this wine, this chair with a cushion, this
gay light--Madame, they are not little things I have to be grateful
for. When I think of the dunes they seem to me--they seem--"

Suddenly he stopped. His gay voice was choked. She saw that there were
tears in his blue eyes, which were fixed on her with an expression of
ardent gratitude. He cleared his throat.

"Monsieur," he said to Androvsky, "you will not think me presuming on
an acquaintance formed in the desert if I say that till the end of my
life I--and my men--can only think of Madame as of the good Goddess of
the desolate Sahara!"

He did not know how Androvsky would take this remark, he did not care.
For the moment in his impulsive nature there was room only for
admiration of the woman and, gratitude for her frank kindness.
Androvsky said:

"Thank you, Monsieur."

He spoke with an intensity, even a fervour, that were startling. For
the first time since they had been together his voice was absolutely
natural, his manner was absolutely unconstrained, he showed himself as
he was, a man on fire with love for the woman who had given herself to
him, and who received a warm word of praise of her as a gift made to
himself. De Trevignac no longer wondered that Domini was his wife.
Those three words, and the way they were spoken, gave him the man and
what he might be in a woman's life. Domini looked at her husband
silently. It seemed to her as if her heart were flooded with light, as
if desolate Mogar were the Garden of Eden before the angel came. When
they spoke again it was on some indifferent topic. But from that
moment the meal went more merrily. Androvsky seemed to lose his
strange uneasiness. De Trevignac met him more than half-way. Something
of the gaiety round the camp fire had entered into the tent. A chain
of sympathy had been forged between these three people. Possibly, a
touch might break it, but for the moment it seemed strong.

At the end of the dinner Domini got up.

"We have no formalities in the desert," she said. "But I'm going to
leave you together for a moment. Give Monsieur de Trevignac a cigar,
Boris. Coffee is coming directly."

She went out towards the camp fire. She wanted to leave the men
together to seal their good fellowship. Her husband's change from
taciturnity to cordiality had enchanted her. Happiness was dancing
within her. She felt gay as a child. Between the fire and the tent she
met Ouardi carrying a tray. On it were a coffee-pot, cups, little
glasses and a tall bottle of a peculiar shape with a very thin neck
and bulging sides.

"What's that, Ouardi?" she asked, touching it with her finger.

"That is an African liqueur, Madame, that you have never tasted.
Batouch told me to bring it in honour of Monsieur the officer. They
call it--"

"Another surprise of Batouch's!" she interrupted gaily. "Take it in!
Monsieur the officer will think we have quite a cellar in the desert."

He went on, and she stood for a few minutes looking at the blaze of
the fire, and at the faces lit up by it, French and Arab. The happy
soldiers were singing a French song with a chorus for the delectation
of the Arabs, who swayed to and fro, wagging their heads and smiling
in an effort to show appreciation of the barbarous music of the
Roumis. Dreary, terrible Mogar and its influences were being defied by
the wanderers halting in it. She thought of Androvsky's words about
the human will overcoming the influence of place, and a sudden desire
came to her to go as far as the tower where she had felt sad and
apprehensive, to stand in its shadow for an instant and to revel in
her happiness.

She yielded to the impulse, walked to the tower, and stood there
facing the darkness which hid the dunes, the white plains, the phantom
sea, seeing them in her mind, and radiantly defying them. Then she
began to return to the camp, walking lightly, as happy people walk.
When she had gone a very short way she heard someone coming towards
her. It was too dark to see who it was. She could only hear the steps
among the stones. They were hasty. They passed her and stopped behind
her at the tower. She wondered who it was, and supposed it must be one
of the soldiers come to fetch something, or perhaps tired and
hastening to bed.

As she drew near to the camp she saw the lamplight shining in the
tent, where doubtless De Trevignac and Androvsky were smoking and
talking in frank good fellowship. It was like a bright star, she
thought, that gleam of light that shone out of her home, the brightest
of all the stars of Africa. She went towards it. As she drew near she
expected to hear the voices of the two men, but she heard nothing. Nor
did she see the blackness of their forms in the circle of the light.
Perhaps they had gone out to join the soldiers and the Arabs round the
fire. She hastened on, came to the tent, entered it, and was
confronted by her husband, who was standing back in an angle formed by
the canvas, in the shadow, alone. On the floor near him lay a quantity
of fragments of glass.

"Boris!" she said. "Where is Monsieur de Trevignac?"

"Gone," replied Androvsky in a loud, firm voice.

She looked up at him. His face was grim and powerful, hard like the
face of a fighting man.

"Gone already? Why?"

"He's tired out. He told me to make his excuses to you."


She saw in the table the coffee cups. Two of them were full of coffee.
The third, hers, was clean.

"But he hasn't drunk his coffee!" she said.

She was astonished and showed it. She could not understand a man who
had displayed such warm, even touching, appreciation of her kindness
leaving her without a word, taking the opportunity of her momentary
absence to disappear, to shirk away--for she put it like that to

"No--he did not want coffee."

"But was anything the matter?"

She looked down at the broken glass, and saw stains upon the ground
among the fragments.

"What's this?" she said. "Oh, the African liqueur!"

Suddenly Androvsky put his arm round her with an iron grip, and led
her away out of the tent. They crossed the space to the sleeping-tent
in silence. She felt governed, and as if she must yield to his will,
but she also felt confused, even almost alarmed mentally. The
sleeping-tent was dark. When they reached it Androvsky took his arm
from her, and she heard him searching for the matches. She was in the
tent door and could see that there was a light in the tower. De
Trevignac must be there already. No doubt it was he who had passed her
in the night when she was returning to the camp. Androvsky struck a
match and lit a candle. Then he came to the tent door and saw her
looking at the light in the tower.

"Come in, Domini," he said, taking her by the hand, and speaking
gently, but still with a firmness that hinted at command.

She obeyed, and he quickly let down the flap of canvas, and shut out
the night.

"What is it, Boris?" she asked.

She was standing by one of the beds.

"What has happened?"


"I don't understand. Why did Monsieur de Trevignac go away so

"Domini, do you care whether he is here or gone? Do you care?" He sat
on the edge of the bed and drew her down beside him.

"Do you want anyone to be with us, to break in upon our lives? Aren't
we happier alone?"

"Boris!" she said, "you--did you let him see that you wanted him to

It occurred to her suddenly that Androvsky, in his lack of worldly
knowledge, might perhaps have shown their guest that he secretly
resented the intrusion of a stranger upon them even for one evening,
and that De Trevignac, being a sensitive man, had been hurt and had
abruptly gone away. Her social sense revolted at this idea.

"You didn't let him see that, Boris!" she exclaimed. "After his escape
from death! It would have been inhuman."

"Perhaps my love for you might even make me that, Domini. And if it
did--if you knew why I was inhuman--would you blame me for it? Would
you hate me for it?"

There was a strong excitement dawning in him. It recalled to her the
first night in the desert when they sat together on the ground and
watched the waning of the fire.

"Could you--could you hate me for anything, Domini?" he said. "Tell me
--could you?"

His face was close to hers. She looked at him with her long, steady
eyes, that had truth written in their dark fire.

"No," she answered. "I could never hate you--now."

"Not if--not if I had done you harm? Not if I had done you a wrong?"

"Could you ever do me a wrong?" she asked.

She sat, looking at him as if in deep thought, for a moment.

"I could almost as easily believe that God could," she said at last

"Then you--you have perfect trust in me?"

"But--have you ever thought I had not?" she asked. There was wonder in
her voice.

"But I have given my life to you," she added still with wonder. "I am
here in the desert with you. What more can I give? What more can I

He put his arms about her and drew her head down on his shoulder.

"Nothing, nothing. You have given, you have done everything--too much,
too much. I feel myself below you, I know myself below you--far, far

"How can you say that? I couldn't have loved you if it were so." She
spoke with complete conviction.

"Perhaps," he said, in a low voice, "perhaps women never realise what
their love can do. It might--it might--"

"What, Boris?"

"It might do what Christ did--go down into hell to preach to the--to
the spirits in prison."

His voice had dropped almost to a murmur. With one hand on her cheek
he kept her face pressed down upon his shoulder so that she could not
see his face.

"It might do that, Domini."

"Boris," she said, almost whispering too, for his words and manner
filled her with a sort of awe, "I want you to tell me something."

"What is it?"

"Are you quite happy with me here in the desert? If you are I want you
to tell me that you are. Remember--I shall believe you."

"No other human being could ever give me the happiness you give me."


He interrupted her.

"No other human being ever has. Till I met you I had no conception of
the happiness there is in the world for man and woman who love each

"Then you are happy?"

"Don't I seem so?"

She did not reply. She was searching her heart for the answer--
searching it with an almost terrible sincerity. He waited for her
answer, sitting quite still. His hand was always against her face.
After what seemed to him an eternity she said:



"Why did you say that about a woman's love being able even to go down
into hell to preach to the spirits in prison?"

He did not answer. His hand seemed to her to lie more heavily on her

"I--I am not sure that you are quite happy with me," she said.

She spoke like one who reverenced truth, even though it slew her.
There was a note of agony in her voice.

"Hush!" he said. "Hush, Domini!"

They were both silent. Beyond the canvas of the tent that shut out
from them the camp they heard a sound of music. Drums were being
beaten. The African pipe was wailing. Then the voice of Ali rose in
the song of the "Freed Negroes":

"No one but God and I
Knows what is in my heart."

At that moment Domini felt that the words were true--horribly true.

"Boris," she said. "Do you hear?"

"Hush, Domini."

"I think there is something in your heart that sometimes makes you sad
even with me. I think perhaps I partly guess what it is."

He took his hand away from her face, his arm from her shoulder, but
she caught hold of him, and her arm was strong like a man's.

"Boris, you are with me, you are close to me, but do you sometimes
feel far away from God?"

He did not answer.

"I don't know; I oughtn't to ask, perhaps. I don't ask--no, I don't.
But, if it's that, don't be too sad. It may all come right--here in
the desert. For the desert is the Garden of Allah. And, Boris--put out
the light."

He extinguished the candle with his hand.

"You feel, perhaps, that you can't pray honestly now, but some day you
may be able to. You will be able to. I know it. Before I knew I loved
you I saw you--praying in the desert."

"I!" he whispered. "You saw me praying in the desert!"

It seemed to her that he was afraid. She pressed him more closely with
her arms.

"It was that night in the dancing-house. I seemed to see a crowd of
people to whom the desert had given gifts, and to you it had given the
gift of prayer. I saw you far out in the desert praying."

She heard his hard breathing, felt it against her cheek.

"If--if it is that, Boris, don't despair. It may come. Keep the
crucifix. I am sure you have it. And I always pray for you."

They sat for a long while in the dark, but they did not speak again
that night.

Domini did not sleep, and very early in the morning, just as dawn was
beginning, she stole out of the tent, shutting down the canvas flap
behind her.

It was cold outside--cold almost as in a northern winter. The wind of
the morning, that blew to her across the wavelike dunes and the white
plains, seemed impregnated with ice. The sky was a pallid grey. The
camp was sleeping. What had been a fire, all red and gold and leaping
beauty, was now a circle of ashes, grey as the sky. She stood on the
edge of the hill and looked towards the tower.

As she did so, from the house behind it came a string of mules,
picking their way among the stones over the hard earth. De Trevignac
and his men were already departing from Mogar.

They came towards her slowly. They had to pass her to reach the track
by which they were going on to the north and civilisation. She stood
to see them pass.

When they were quite near De Trevignac, who was riding, with his head
bent down on his chest, muffled in a heavy cloak, looked up and saw
her. She nodded to him. He sat up and saluted. For a moment she
thought that he was going on without stopping to speak to her. She saw
that he hesitated what to do. Then he pulled up his mule and prepared
to get off.

"No, don't, Monsieur," she said.

She held out her hand.

"Good-bye," she added.

He took her hand, then signed to his men to ride on. When they had
passed, saluting her, he let her hand go. He had not spoken a word.
His face, burned scarlet by the sun, had a look of exhaustion on it,
but also another look--of horror, she thought, as if in his soul he
was recoiling from her. His inflamed blue eyes watched her, as if in a
search that was intense. She stood beside the mule in amazement. She
could hardly believe that this was the man who had thanked her, with
tears in his eyes, for her hospitality the night before. "Good-bye,"
he said, speaking at last, coldly. She saw him glance at the tent from
which she had come. The horror in his face surely deepened. "Goodbye,
Madame," he repeated. "Thank you for your hospitality." He pulled up
the rein to ride on. The mule moved a step or two. Then suddenly he
checked it and turned in the saddle. "Madame!" he said. "Madame!"

She came up to him. It seemed to her that he was going to say
something of tremendous importance to her. His lips, blistered by the
sun, opened to speak. But he only looked again towards the tent in
which Androvsky was still sleeping, then at her.

A long moment passed.

Then De Trevignac, as if moved by an irresistable impulse, leaned from
the saddle and made over Domini the sign of the cross. His hand
dropped down against the mule's side, and without another word, or
look, he rode away to the north, following his men.


That same day, to the surprise of Batouch, they left Mogar. To both
Domini and Androvsky it seemed a tragic place, a place where the
desert showed them a countenance that was menacing.

They moved on towards the south, wandering aimlessly through the warm
regions of the sun. Then, as the spring drew into summer, and the heat
became daily more intense, they turned again northwards, and on an
evening in May pitched their camp on the outskirts of the Sahara city
of Amara.

This city, although situated in the northern part of the desert, was
called by the Arabs "The belly of the Sahara," and also "The City of
Scorpions." It lay in the midst of a vast region of soft and shifting
sand that suggested a white sea, in which the oasis of date palms, at
the edge of which the city stood, was a green island. From the south,
whence the wanderers came, the desert sloped gently upwards for a long
distance, perhaps half a day's march, and many kilometres before the
city was reached, the minarets of its mosques were visible, pointing
to the brilliant blue sky that arched the whiteness of the sands.
Round about the city, on every side, great sand-hills rose like
ramparts erected by Nature to guard it from the assaults of enemies.
These hills were black with the tents of desert tribes, which, from
far off, looked like multitudes of flies that had settled on the
sands. The palms of the oasis, which stretched northwards from the
city, could not be seen from the south till the city was reached, and
in late spring this region was a strange and barbarous pageant of blue
and white and gold; crude in its intensity, fierce in its crudity,
almost terrible in its blazing splendour that was like the Splendour
about the portals of the sun.

Domini and Androvsky rode towards Amara at a foot's pace, looking
towards its distant towers. A quivering silence lay around them, yet
already they seemed to hear the cries of the voices of a great
multitude, to be aware of the movement of thronging crowds of men.
This was the first Sahara city they had drawn near to, and their minds
were full of memories of the stories of Batouch, told to them by the
camp fire at night in the uninhabited places which, till now, had been
their home: stories of the wealthy date merchants who trafficked here
and dwelt in Oriental palaces, poor in aspect as seen from the dark
and narrow streets, or zgags, in which they were situated, but within
full of the splendours of Eastern luxury; of the Jew moneylenders who
lived apart in their own quarter, rapacious as wolves, hoarding their
gains, and practising the rites of their ancient and--according to the
Arabs--detestable religion; of the marabouts, or sacred men, revered
by the Mohammedans, who rode on white horses through the public ways,
followed by adoring fanatics who sought to touch their garments and
amulets, and demanded importunately miraculous blessings at their
hands--the hedgehog's foot to protect their women in the peril of
childbirth; the scroll, covered with verses of the Koran and enclosed
in a sheaf of leather, that banishes ill dreams at night and stays the
uncertain feet of the sleep-walker; the camel's skull that brings
fruit to the palm trees; the red coral that stops the flow of blood
from a knife-wound--of the dancing-girls glittering in an armour of
golden pieces, their heads tied with purple and red and yellow
handkerchiefs of silk, crowned with great bars of solid gold and
tufted with ostrich feathers; of the dwarfs and jugglers who by night
perform in the marketplace, contending for custom with the sorceresses
who tell the fates from shells gathered by mirage seas; with the
snake-charmers--who are immune from the poison of serpents and the
acrobats who come from far-off Persia and Arabia to spread their
carpets in the shadow of the Agha's dwelling and delight the eyes of
negro and Kabyle, of Soudanese and Touareg with their feats of
strength; of the haschish smokers who, assembled by night in an
underground house whose ceiling and walls were black as ebony, gave
themselves up to day-dreams of shifting glory, in which the things of
earth and the joys and passions of men reappeared, but transformed by
the magic influence of the drug, made monstrous or fairylike,
intensified or turned to voluptuous languors, through which the Ouled
Nail floated like a syren, promising ecstasies unknown even in
Baghdad, where the pale Circassian lifts her lustrous eyes, in which
the palms were heavy with dates of solid gold, and the streams were
gliding silver.

Often they had smiled over Batouch's opulent descriptions of the
marvels of Ain-Amara, which they suspected to be very far away from
the reality, and yet, nevertheless, when they saw the minarets soaring
above the sands to the brassy heaven, it seemed to them both as if,
perhaps, they might be true. The place looked intensely barbaric. The
approach to it was grandiose.

Wide as the sands had been, they seemed to widen out into a greater
immensity of arid pallor before the city gates as yet unseen. The
stretch of blue above looked vaster here, the horizons more remote,
the radiance of the sun more vivid, more inexorable. Nature surely
expanded as if in an effort to hold her arm against some tremendous
spectacle set in its bosom by the activity of men, who were strong and
ardent as the giants of old, who had powers and a passion for
employing them persistently not known in any other region of the
earth. The immensity of Mogar brought sadness to the mind. The
immensity of Ain-Amara brought excitement. Even at this distance from
it, when its minarets were still like shadowy fingers of an unlifted
hand, Androvsky and Domini were conscious of influences streaming
forth from its battlements over the sloping sands like a procession
that welcomed them to a new phase of desert life.

"And people talk of the monotony of the Sahara!" Domini said speaking
out of their mutual thought. "Everything is here, Boris; you've never
drawn near to London. Long before you reach the first suburbs you feel
London like a great influence brooding over the fields and the woods.
Here you feel Amara in the same way brooding over the sands. It's as
if the sands were full of voices. Doesn't it excite you?"

"Yes," he said. "But"--and he turned in his saddle and looked back--"I
feel as if the solitudes were safer."

"We can return to them."


"We are splendidly free. There's nothing to prevent us leaving Amara

"Isn't there?" he answered, fixing his eyes upon the minarets.

"What can there be?"

"Who knows?"

"What do you mean, Boris? Are you superstitious? But you reject the
influence of place. Don't you remember--at Mogar?"

At the mention of the name his face clouded and she was sorry she had
spoken it. Since they had left the hill above the mirage sea they had
scarcely ever alluded to their night there. They had never once talked
of the dinner in camp with De Trevignac and his men, or renewed their
conversation in the tent on the subject of religion. But since that
day, since her words about Androvsky's lack of perfect happiness even
with her far out in the freedom of the desert, Domini had been
conscious that, despite their great love for each other, their mutual
passion for the solitude in which it grew each day more deep and more
engrossing, wrapping their lives in fire and leading them on to the
inner abodes of sacred understanding, there was at moments a barrier
between them.

At first she had striven not to recognise its existence. She had
striven to be blind. But she was essentially a brave woman and an
almost fanatical lover of truth for its own sake, thinking that what
is called an ugly truth is less ugly than the loveliest lie. To deny
truth is to play the coward. She could not long do that. And so she
quickly learned to face this truth with steady eyes and an unflinching

At moments Androvsky retreated from her, his mind became remote--more,
his heart was far from her, and, in its distant place, was suffering.
Of that she was assured.

But she was assured, too, that she stood to him for perfection in
human companionship. A woman's love is, perhaps, the only true
divining rod. Domini knew instinctively where lay the troubled waters,
what troubled them in their subterranean dwelling. She was certain
that Androvsky was at peace with her but not with himself. She had
said to him in the tent that she thought he sometimes felt far away
from God. The conviction grew in her that even the satisfaction of his
great human love was not enough for his nature. He demanded, sometimes
imperiously, not only the peace that can be understood gloriously, but
also that other peace which passeth understanding. And because he had
it not he suffered.

In the Garden of Allah he felt a loneliness even though she was with
him, and he could not speak with her of this loneliness. That was the
barrier between them, she thought.

She prayed for him: in the tent by night, in the desert under the
burning sky by day. When the muezzin cried from the minaret of some
tiny village lost in the desolation of the wastes, turning to the
north, south, east and west, and the Mussulmans bowed their shaved
heads, facing towards Mecca, she prayed to the Catholics' God, whom
she felt to be the God, too, of all the devout, of all the religions
of the world, and to the Mother of God, looking towards Africa. She
prayed that this man whom she loved, and who she believed was seeking,
might find. And she felt that there was a strength, a passion in her
prayers, which could not be rejected. She felt that some day Allah
would show himself in his garden to the wanderer there. She dared to
feel that because she dared to believe in the endless mercy of God.
And when that moment came she felt, too, that their love--hers and his
--for each other would be crowned. Beautiful and intense as it was it
still lacked something. It needed to be encircled by the protecting
love of a God in whom they both believed in the same way, and to whom
they both were equally near. While she felt close to this love and he
far from it they were not quite together.

There were moments in which she was troubled, even sad, but they
passed. For she had a great courage, a great confidence. The hope that
dwells like a flame in the purity of prayer comforted her.

"I love the solitudes," he said. "I love to have you to myself."

"If we lived always in the greatest city of the world it would make no
difference," she said quietly. "You know that, Boris."

He bent over from his saddle and clasped her hand in his, and they
rode thus up the great slope of the sands, with their horses close

The minarets of the city grew more distinct. They dominated the waste
as the thought of Allah dominates the Mohammedan world. Presently, far
away on the left, Domini and Androvsky saw hills of sand, clearly
defined like small mountains delicately shaped. On the summits of
these hills were Arab villages of the hue of bronze gleaming in the
sun. No trees stood near them. But beyond them, much farther off, was
the long green line of the palms of a large oasis. Between them and
the riders moved slowly towards the minarets dark things that looked
like serpents writhing through the sands. These were caravans coming
into the city from long journeys. Here and there, dotted about in the
immensity, were solitary horsemen, camels in twos and threes, small
troops of donkeys. And all the things that moved went towards the
minarets as if irresistibly drawn onwards by some strong influence
that sucked them in from the solitudes of the whirlpool of human life.

Again Domini thought of the approach to London, and of the dominion of
great cities, those octopus monsters created by men, whose tentacles
are strong to seize and stronger still to keep. She was infected by
Androvsky's dread of a changed life, and through her excitement, that
pulsed with interest and curiosity, she felt a faint thrill of
something that was like fear.

"Boris," she said, "I feel as if your thoughts were being conveyed to
me by your touch. Perhaps the solitudes are best."

By a simultaneous impulse they pulled in their horses and listened.
Sounds came to them over the sands, thin and remote. They could not
tell what they were, but they knew that they heard something which
suggested the distant presence of life.

"What is it?" said Domini.

"I don't know, but I hear something. It travels to us from the

They both leaned forward on their horses' necks, holding each other's

"I feel the tumult of men," Androvsky said presently.

"And I. But it seems as if no men could have elected to build a city

"Here in the 'Belly of the desert,'" he said, quoting the Arabs' name
for Amara.

"Boris"--she spoke in a more eager voice, clasping his hand
strongly--"you remember the /fumoir/ in Count Anteoni's garden. The
place where it stood was the very heart of the garden."


"We understood each other there."

He pressed her hand without speaking.

"Amara seems to me the heart of the Garden of Allah. Perhaps--perhaps
we shall----"

She paused. Her eyes were fixed upon his face.

"What, Domini?" he asked.

He looked expectant, but anxious, and watched her, but with eyes that
seemed ready to look away from her at a word.

"Perhaps we shall understand each other even better there."

He looked down at the white sand.

"Better!" he repeated. "Could we do that?"

She did not answer. The far-off villages gleamed mysteriously on their
little mountains, like unreal things that might fade away as castles
fade in the fire. The sky above the minarets was changing in colour
slowly. Its blue was being invaded by a green that was a sister
colour. A curious light, that seemed to rise from below rather than to
descend from above, was transmuting the whiteness of the sands. A
lemon yellow crept through them, but they still looked cold and
strange, and immeasurably vast. Domini fancied that the silence of the
desert deepened so that, in it, they might hear the voices of Amara
more distinctly.

"You know," she said, "when one looks out over the desert from a
height, as we did from the tower of Beni-Mora, it seems to call one.
There's a voice in the blue distance that seems to say, 'Come to me! I
am here--hidden in my retreat, beyond the blue, and beyond the mirage,
and beyond the farthest verge!'"

"Yes, I know."

"I have always felt, when we travelled in the desert, that the calling
thing, the soul of the desert, retreated as I advanced, and still
summoned me onward but always from an infinite distance."

"And I too, Domini."

"Now I don't feel that. I feel as if now we were coming near to the
voice, as if we should reach it at Amara, as if there it would tell us
its secret."

"Imagination!" he said.

But he spoke seriously, almost mystically. His voice was at odds with
the word it said. She noticed that and was sure that he was secretly
sharing her sensation. She even suspected that he had perhaps felt it

"Let us ride on," he said. "Do you see the change in the light? Do you
see the green in the sky? It is cooler, too. This is the wind of

Their hands fell apart and they rode slowly on, up the long slope of
the sands.

Presently they saw that they had come out of the trackless waste and
that though still a long way from the city they were riding on a
desert road which had been trodden by multitudes of feet. There were
many footprints here. On either side were low banks of sand, beaten
into a rough symmetry by implements of men, and shallow trenches
through which no water ran. In front of them they saw the numerous
caravans, now more distinct, converging from left and right slowly to
this great isle of the desert which stretched in a straight line to
the minarets.

"We are on a highway," Domini said.

Androvsky sighed.

"I feel already as if we were in the midst of a crowd," he answered.

"Our love for peace oughtn't to make us hate our fellowmen!" she said.
"Come, Boris, let us chase away our selfish mood!"

She spoke in a more cheerful voice and drew her rein a little tighter.
Her horse quickened its pace.

"And think how our stay at Amara will make us love the solitudes when
we return to them again. Contrast is the salt of life."

"You speak as if you didn't believe what you are saying."

She laughed.

"If I were ever inclined to tell you a lie," she said, "I should not
dare to. Your mind penetrates mine too deeply."

"You could not tell me a lie."

"Do you hear the dogs barking?" she said, after a moment. "They are
among those tents that are like flies on the sands around the city.
That is the tribe of the Ouled Nails I suppose. Batouch says they camp
here. What multitudes of tents! Those are the suburbs of Amara. I
would rather live in them than in the suburbs of London. Oh, how far
away we are, as if we were at the end of the world!"

Either her last words, or her previous change of manner to a lighter
cheerfulness, almost a briskness, seemed to rouse Androvsky to a
greater confidence, even to anticipation of possible pleasure.

"Yes. After all it is only the desert men who are here. Amara is their
Metropolis, and in it we shall only see their life."

His horse plunged. He had touched it sharply with his heel.

"I believe you hate the thought of civilisation," she exclaimed.

"And you?"

"I never think of it. I feel almost as if I had never known it, and
could never know it."

"Why should you? You love the wilds."

"They make my whole nature leap. Even when I was a child it was so. I
remember once reading /Maud/. In it I came upon a passage--I can't
remember it well, but it was about the red man--"

She thought for a moment, looking towards the city.

"I don't know how it is quite," she murmured. "'When the red man
laughs by his cedar tree, and the red man's babe leaps beyond the sea'
--something like that. But I know that it made my heart beat, and that
I felt as if I had wings and were spreading them to fly away to the
most remote places of the earth. And now I have spread my wings, and--
it's glorious. Come, Boris!"

They put their horses to a canter, and soon drew near to the caravans.
They had sent Batouch and Ali, who generally accompanied them, on with
the rest of the camp. Both had many friends in Amara, and were eager
to be there. It was obvious that they and all the attendants, servants
and camel-men, thought of it as the provincial Frenchman thinks of
Paris, as a place of all worldly wonders and delights. Batouch was to
meet them at the entrance to the city, and when they had seen the
marvels of its market-place was to conduct them to the tents which
would be pitched on the sand-hills outside.

Their horses pulled as if they, too, longed for a spell of city life
after the life of the wastes, and Domini's excitement grew. She felt
vivid animal spirits boiling up within her, the sane and healthy sense
that welcomes a big manifestation of the ceaseless enterprise and keen
activity of a brotherhood of men. The loaded camels, the half-naked
running drivers, the dogs sensitively sniffing, as if enticing smells
from the city already reached their nostrils, the chattering desert
merchants discussing coming gains, the wealthy and richly-dressed
Arabs, mounted on fine horses, and staring with eyes that glittered up
the broad track in search of welcoming friends, were sympathetic to
her mood. Amara was sucking them all in together from the solitary
places as quiet waters are sucked into the turmoils of a mill-race.
Although still out in the sands they were already in the midst of a
noise of life flowing to meet the roar of life that rose up at the
feet of the minarets, which now looked tall and majestic in the
growing beauty of the sunset.

They passed the caravans one by one, and came on to the crest of the
long sand slope just as the sky above the city was flushing with a
bright geranium red. The track from here was level to the city wall,
and was no longer soft with sand. A broad, hard road rang beneath
their horses' hoofs, startling them with a music that was like a voice
of civilised life. Before them, under the red sky, they saw a dark
blue of distant houses, towers, and great round cupolas glittering
like gold. Forests of palm trees lay behind, the giant date palms for
which Amara was famous. To the left stretched the sands dotted with
gleaming Arab villages, to the right again the sands covered with
hundreds of tents among which quantities of figures moved lively like
ants, black on the yellow, arched by the sky that was alive with lurid
colour, red fading into gold, gold into primrose, primrose into green,
green into the blue that still told of the fading day. And to this
multi-coloured sky, from the barbaric city and the immense sands in
which it was set, rose a great chorus of life; voices of men and
beasts, cries of naked children playing Cora on the sand-hills, of
mothers to straying infants, shrill laughter of unveiled girls
wantonly gay, the calls of men, the barking of multitudes of dogs,--
the guard dogs of the nomads that are never silent night or day,--the
roaring of hundreds of camels now being unloaded for the night, the
gibbering of the mad beggars who roam perpetually on the outskirts of
the encampments like wolves seeking what they may devour, the braying
of donkeys, the whinnying of horses. And beneath these voices of
living things, foundation of their uprising vitality, pulsed barbarous
music, the throbbing tomtoms that are for ever heard in the lands of
the sun, fetish music that suggests fatalism, and the grand monotony
of the enormous spaces, and the crude passion that repeats itself, and
the untiring, sultry loves and the untired, sultry languors of the
children of the sun.

The silence of the sands, which Domini and Androvsky had known and
loved, was merged in the tumult of the sands. The one had been
mystical, laying the soul to rest. The other was provocative, calling
the soul to wake. At this moment the sands themselves seemed to stir
with life and to cry aloud with voices.

"The very sky is barbarous to-night!" Domini exclaimed. "Did you ever
see such colour, Boris?"

"Over the minarets it is like a great wound," he answered.

"No wonder men are careless of human life in such a land as this. All
the wildness of the world seems to be concentrated here. Amara is like
the desert city of some tremendous dream. It looks wicked and
unearthly, but how superb!"

"Look at those cupolas!" he said. "Are there really Oriental palaces
here? Has Batouch told us the truth for once?"

"Or less than the truth? I could believe anything of Amara at this
moment. What hundreds of camels! They remind me of Arba, our first
halting-place." She looked at him and he at her.

"How long ago that seems!" she said.

"A thousand years ago."

They both had a memory of a great silence, in the midst of this
growing tumult in which the sky seemed now to take its part, calling
with the voices of its fierce colours, with the voices of the fires
that burdened it in the west.

"Silence joined us, Domini," Androvsky said.

"Yes. Perhaps silence is the most beautiful voice in the world."

Far off, along the great white road, they saw two horsemen galloping
to meet them from the city, one dressed in brilliant saffron yellow,
the other in the palest blue, both crowned with large and snowy

"Who can they be?" said Domini, as they drew near. "They look like two
princes of the Sahara."

Then she broke into a merry laugh.

"Batouch! and Ali!" she exclaimed.

The servants galloped up then, without slackening speed deftly wheeled
their horses in a narrow circle, and were beside them, going with
them, one on the right hand, the other on the left.

"Bravo!" Domini cried, delighted at this feat of horsemanship. "But
what have you been doing? You are transformed!"

"Madame, we have been to the Bain Maure," replied Batouch, calmly,
swelling out his broad chest under his yellow jacket laced with gold.
"We have had our heads shaved till they are smooth and beautiful as
polished ivory. We have been to the perfumer"--he leaned
confidentially towards her, exhaling a pungent odour of amber--"to the
tailor, to the baboosh bazaar!"--he kicked out a foot cased in a
slipper that was bright almost as a gold piece--"to him who sells the
cherchia." He shook his head till the spangled muslin that flowed
about it trembled. "Is it not right that your servants should do you
honour in the city?"

"Perfectly right," she answered with a careful seriousness. "I am
proud of you both."

"And Monsieur?" asked Ali, speaking in his turn.

Androvsky withdrew his eyes from the city, which was now near at hand.

"Splendid!" he said, but as if attending to the Arabs with difficulty.
"You are splendid."

As they came towards the old wall which partially surrounds Amara, and
which rises from a deep natural moat of sand, they saw that the ground
immediately before the city which, from a distance, had looked almost
fiat, was in reality broken up into a series of wavelike dunes, some
small with depressions like deep crevices between them, others large
with summits like plateaux. These dunes were of a sharp lemon yellow
in the evening light, a yellow that was cold in its clearness, almost
setting the teeth on edge. They went away into great rolling slopes of
sand on which the camps of the nomads and the Ouled Nails were
pitched, some near to, some distant from, the city, but they
themselves were solitary. No tents were pitched close to the city,
under the shadow of its wall. As Androvsky spoke, Domini exclaimed:

"Boris---look! That is the most extraordinary thing I have ever seen!"

She put her hand on his arm. He obeyed her eyes and looked to his
right, to the small lemon-yellow dunes that were close to them. At
perhaps a hundred yards from the road was a dune that ran parallel
with it. The fire of the sinking sun caught its smooth crest, and
above this crest, moving languidly towards the city, were visible the
heads and busts of three women, the lower halves of whose bodies were
concealed by the sand of the farther side of the dune. They were
dancing-girls. On their heads, piled high with gorgeous handkerchiefs,
were golden crowns which glittered in the sun-rays, and tufts of
scarlet feathers. Their oval faces, covered with paint, were partially
concealed by long strings of gold coins, which flowed from their
crowns down over their large breasts and disappeared towards their
waists, which were hidden by the sand. Their dresses were of scarlet,
apple-green and purple silks, partially covered by floating shawls of
spangled muslin. Beneath their crowns and handkerchiefs burgeoned
forth plaits of false hair decorated with coral and silver ornaments.
Their hands, which they held high, gesticulating above the crest of
the dune, were painted blood red.

These busts and heads glided slowly along in the setting sun, and
presently sank down and vanished into some depression of the dunes.
For an instant one blood-red hand was visible alone, waving a signal
above the sand to someone unseen. Its fingers fluttered like the wings
of a startled bird. Then it, too, vanished, and the sharply-cold lemon
yellow of the dunes stretched in vivid loneliness beneath the evening

To both of them this brief vision of women in the sand brought home
the solitude of the desert and the barbarity of the life it held, the
ascetism of this supreme manifestation of Nature and the animal
passion which fructifies in its heart.

"Do you know what that made me think of, Boris?" Domini said, as the
red hand with its swiftly-moving fingers disappeared. "You'll smile,
perhaps, and I scarcely know why. It made me think of the Devil in a

Androvsky did not smile. Nor did he answer. She felt sure that he,
too, had been strongly affected by that glimpse of Sahara life. His
silence gave Batouch an opportunity of pouring forth upon them a flood
of poetical description of the dancing-girls of Amara, all of whom he
seemed to know as intimate friends. Before he ceased they came into
the city.

The road was still majestically broad. They looked with interest at
the first houses, one on each side of the way. And here again they
were met by the sharp contrast which was evidently to be the keynote
of Amara. The house on the left was European, built of white stone,
clean, attractive, but uninteresting, with stout white pillars of
plaster supporting an arcade that afforded shade from the sun, windows
with green blinds, and an open doorway showing a little hall, on the
floor of which lay a smart rug glowing with gay colours; that on the
right, before which the sand lay deep as if drifted there by some
recent wind of the waste, was African and barbarous, an immense and
rambling building of brown earth, brushwood and palm, windowless, with
a flat-terraced roof, upon which were piled many strange-looking
objects like things collapsed, red and dark green, with fringes and
rosettes, and tall sticks of palm pointing vaguely to the sky.

"Why, these are like our palanquin!" Domini said.

"They are the palanquins of the dancing-girls, Madame," said Batouch.
"That is the cafe of the dancers, and that"--he pointed to the neat
house opposite--"is the house of Monsieur the Aumonier of Amara."

"Aumonier," said Androvsky, sharply. "Here!"

He paused, then added more quietly:

"What should he do here?"

"But, Monsieur, he is for the French officers."

"There are French officers?"

"Yes, Monsieur, four or five, and the commandant. They live in the
palace with the cupolas."

"I forgot," Androvsky said to Domini. "We are not out of the sphere of
French influence. This place looks so remote and so barbarous that I
imagined it given over entirely to the desert men."

"We need not see the French," she said. "We shall be encamped outside
in the sand."

"And we need not stay here long," he said quickly.

"Boris," she asked him, half in jest, half in earnest, "shall we buy a
desert island to live in?"

"Let us buy an oasis," he said. "That would be the perf--the safest
life for us."

"The safest?"

"The safest for our happiness. Domini, I have a horror of the world!"
He said the last words with a strong, almost fierce, emphasis.

"Had you it always, or only since we have been married?"

"I--perhaps it was born in me, perhaps it is part of me. Who knows?"

He had relapsed into a gravity that was heavy with gloom, and looked
about him with eyes that seemed to wish to reject all that offered
itself to their sight.

"I want the desert and you in it," he said. "The lonely desert, with

"And nothing else?"

"I want that. I cannot have that taken from me."

He looked about him quickly from side to side as they rode up the
street, as if he were a scout sent in advance of an army and suspected
ambushes. His manner reminded her of the way he had looked towards the
tower as they rode into Mogar. And he had connected that tower with
the French. She remembered his saying to her that it must have been
built for French soldiers. As they rode into Mogar he had dreaded
something in Mogar. The strange incident with De Trevignac had
followed. She had put it from her mind as a matter of small, or no,
importance, had resolutely forgotten it, had been able to forget it in
their dream of desert life and desert passion. But the entry into a
city for the moment destroyed the dreamlike atmosphere woven by the
desert, recalled her town sense, that quick-wittedness, that sharpness
of apprehension and swiftness of observation which are bred in those
who have long been accustomed to a life in the midst of crowds and
movement, and changing scenes and passing fashions. Suddenly she
seemed to herself to be reading Androvsky with an almost merciless
penetration, which yet she could not check. He had dreaded something
in Mogar. He dreaded something here in Amara. An unusual incident--for
the coming of a stranger into their lives out of their desolation of
the sand was unusual--had followed close upon the first dread. Would
another such incident follow upon this second dread? And of what was
this dread born?

Batouch drew her attention to the fact that they were coming to the
marketplace, and to the curious crowds of people who were swarming out
of the tortuous, narrow streets into the main thoroughfare to watch
them pass, or to accompany them, running beside their horses. She
divined at once, by the passionate curiosity their entry aroused, that
he had misspent his leisure in spreading through the city lying
reports of their immense importance and fabulous riches.

"Batouch," she said, "you have been talking about us."

"No, Madame, I merely said that Madame is a great lady in her own
land, and that Monsieur--"

"I forbid you ever to speak about me, Batouch," said Androvsky,

He seemed worried by the clamour of the increasing mob that surrounded
them. Children in long robes like night-gowns skipped before them,
calling out in shrill voices. Old beggars, with diseased eyes and
deformed limbs, laid filthy hands upon their bridles and demanded
alms. Impudent boys, like bronze statuettes suddenly endowed with a
fury of life, progressed backwards to keep them full in view, shouting
information at them and proclaiming their own transcendent virtues as
guides. Lithe desert men, almost naked, but with carefully-covered
heads, strode beside them, keeping pace with the horses, saying
nothing, but watching them with a bright intentness that seemed to
hint at unutterable designs. And towards them, through the air that
seemed heavy and almost suffocating now that they were among
buildings, and through clouds of buzzing flies, came the noise of the
larger tumult of the market-place.

Looking over the heads of the throng Domini saw the wide road opening
out into a great space, with the first palms of the oasis thronging on
the left, and a cluster of buildings, many with small cupolas, like
down-turned white cups, on the right. On the farther side of this
space, which was black with people clad for the most in dingy
garments, was an arcade jutting out from a number of hovel-like
houses, and to the right of them, where the market-place, making a
wide sweep, continued up hill and was hidden from her view, was the
end of the great building whose gilded cupolas they had seen as they
rode in from the desert, rising above the city with the minarets of
its mosques.

The flies buzzed furiously about the horses' heads and flanks, and the
people buzzed more furiously, like larger flies, about the riders. It
seemed to Domini as if the whole city was intent upon her and
Androvsky, was observing them, considering them, wondering about them,
was full of a thousand intentions all connected with them.

When they gained the market-place the noise and the watchful curiosity
made a violent crescendo. It happened to be market day and, although
the sun was setting, buying and selling were not yet over. On the hot
earth over which, whenever there is any wind from the desert, the
white sand grains sift and settle, were laid innumerable rugs of gaudy
colours on which were disposed all sorts of goods for sale; heavy
ornaments for women, piles of burnouses, haiks, gandouras, gaiters of
bright red leather, slippers, weapons--many jewelled and gilt, or rich
with patterns in silver--pyramids of the cords of camels' hair that
bind the turbans of the desert men, handkerchiefs and cottons of all
the colours of the rainbow, cheap perfumes in azure flasks powdered
with golden and silver flowers and leaves, incense twigs, panniers of
henna to dye the finger-nails of the faithful, innumerable
comestibles, vegetables, corn, red butcher's meat thickly covered with
moving insects, pale yellow cakes crisp and shining, morsels of liver
spitted on skewers--which, cooked with dust of keef, produce a dreamy
drunkenness more overwhelming even than that produced by haschish--
musical instruments, derboukas, guitars, long pipes, and strange
fiddles with two strings, tomtoms, skins of animals with heads and
claws, live birds, tortoise backs, and plaits of false hair.

The sellers squatted on the ground, their brown and hairy legs
crossed, calmly gazing before them, or, with frenzied voices and
gestures, driving bargains with the buyers, who moved to and fro,
treading carelessly among the merchandise. The tellers of fates glided
through the press, fingering the amulets that hung upon their hearts.
Conjurors proclaimed the merits of their miracles, bawling in the
faces of the curious. Dwarfs went to and fro, dressed in bright
colours with green and yellow turbans on their enormous heads, tapping
with long staves, and relating their deformities. Water-sellers
sounded their gongs. Before pyramids of oranges and dates, neatly
arranged in patterns, sat boys crying in shrill voices the luscious
virtues of their fruits. Idiots, with blear eyes and protending under-
lips, gibbered and whined. Dogs barked. Bakers hurried along with
trays of loaves upon their heads. From the low and smoky arcades to
right and left came the reiterated grunt of negroes pounding coffee. A
fanatic was roaring out his prayers. Arabs in scarlet and blue cloaks
passed by to the Bain Maure, under whose white and blue archway
lounged the Kabyle masseurs with folded, muscular arms. A marabout,
black as a coal, rode on a white horse towards the great mosque,
followed by his servant on foot.

Native soldiers went by to the Kasba on the height, or strolled down
towards the Cafes Maures smoking cigarettes. Circles of grave men bent
over card games, dominoes and draughts--called by the Arabs the
Ladies' Game. Khodjas made their way with dignity towards the Bureau
Arabe. Veiled women, fat and lethargic, jingling with ornaments,
waddled through the arches of the arcades, carrying in their painted
and perspiring hands blocks of sweetmeats which drew the flies.
Children played in the dust by little heaps of refuse, which they
stirred up into clouds with their dancing, naked feet. In front, as if
from the first palms of the oasis, rose the roar of beaten drums from
the negroes' quarter, and from the hill-top at the feet of the
minarets came the fierce and piteous noise that is the /leit-motif/ of
the desert, the multitudinous complaining of camels dominating all
other sounds.

As Domini and Androvsky rode into this whirlpool of humanity, above
which the sky was red like a great wound, it flowed and eddied round
them, making them its centre. The arrival of a stranger-woman was a
rare, if not an unparalleled, event in Amara, and Batouch had been
very busy in spreading the fame of his mistress.

"Madame should dismount," said Batouch. "Ali will take the horses, and
I will escort Madame and Monsieur up the hill to the place of the
fountain. Shabah will be there to greet Madame."

"What an uproar!" Domini exclaimed, half laughing, half confused. "Who
on earth is Shabah?"

"Shabah is the Caid of Amara," replied Batouch with dignity. "The
greatest man of the city. He awaits Madame by the fountain." Domini
cast a glance at Androvsky.

"Well?" she said.

He shrugged his shoulders like a man who thinks strife useless and the
moment come for giving in to Fate.

"The monster has opened his jaws for us," he said, forcing a laugh.
"We had better walk in, I suppose. But--O Domini!--the silence of the

"We shall know it again. This is only for the moment. We shall have
all its joy again."

"Who knows?" he said, as he had said when they were riding up the sand
slope. "Who knows?"

Then they got off their horses and were taken by the crowd.


The tumult of Amara waked up in Domini the town-sense that had been
slumbering. All that seemed to confuse, to daze, to repel Androvsky,
even to inspire him with fear, the noise of the teeming crowds, their
perpetual movement, their contact, startled her into a vividness of
life and apprehension of its various meanings, that sent a thrill
through her. And the thrill was musical with happiness. To the sad a
great vision of human life brings sadness because they read into the
hearts of others their own misery. But to the happy such a vision
brings exultation, for everywhere they find dancing reflections of
their own joy. Domini had lived much in crowds, but always she had
been actively unhappy, or at least coldly dreary in them. Now, for the
first time, she was surrounded by masses of fellow-beings in her
splendid contentment. And the effect of this return, as it were, to
something like the former material conditions of her life, with the
mental and affectional conditions of it transformed by joy, was
striking even to herself. Suddenly she realised to the full her own
humanity, and the living warmth of sympathy that is fanned into flame
in a human heart by the presence of human life with its hopes,
desires, fears, passions, joys, that leap to the eye. Instead of
hating this fierce change from solitude with the man she loved to a
crowd with the man she loved she rejoiced in it. Androvsky was the
cause of both her joys, joy in the waste and joy in Amara, but while
he shared the one he did not share the other.

This did not surprise her because of the conditions in which he had
lived. He was country-bred and had always dwelt far from towns. She
was returning to an old experience--old, for the London crowd and the
crowd of Amara were both crowds of men, however different--with a mind
transformed by happiness. To him the experience was new. Something
within her told her that it was necessary, that it had been ordained
because he needed it. The recalled town-sense, with its sharpness of
observation, persisted. As she rode in to Amara she had seemed to
herself to be reading Androvsky with an almost merciless penetration
which yet she could not check. Now she did not wish to check it, for
the penetration that is founded on perfect love can only yield good
fruit. It seemed to her that she was allowed to see clearly for
Androvsky what he could not see himself, almost as the mother sees for
the child. This contact with the crowds of Amara was, she thought, one
of the gifts the desert made to him. He did not like it. He wished to
reject it. But he was mistaken. For the moment his vision was clouded,
as our vision for ourselves so often is. She realised this, and, for
the first time since the marriage service at Beni-Mora, perhaps seemed
to be selfish. She opposed his wish. Hitherto there had never been any
sort of contest between them. Their desires, like their hearts, had
been in accord. Now there was not a contest, for Androvsky yielded to
Domini's preference, when she expressed it, with a quickness that set
his passion before her in a new and beautiful light. But she knew
that, for the moment, they were not in accord. He hated and dreaded
what she encountered with a vivid sensation of sympathy and joy.

She felt that there was something morbid in his horror of the crowd,
and the same strength of her nature said to her, "Uproot it!"

Their camp was pitched on the sand-hills, to the north of the city
near the French and Arab cemeteries. They reached it only when
darkness was falling, going out of the city on foot by the great wall
of dressed stone which enclosed the Kasba of the native soldiers, and
ascending and descending various slopes of deep sand, over which the
airs of night blew with a peculiar thin freshness that renewed
Domini's sense of being at the end of the world. Everything here
whispered the same message, said, "We are the denizens of far-away."

In their walk to the camp they were accompanied by a little
procession. Shabah, the Caid of Amara, a shortish man whose immense
dignity made him almost gigantic, insisted upon attending them to the
tents, with his young brother, a pretty, libertine boy of sixteen, the
brother's tutor, an Arab black as a negro but without the negro's look
of having been freshly oiled, and two attendants. To them joined
himself the Caid of the Nomads, a swarthy potentate who not only
looked, but actually was, immense, his four servants, and his uncle, a
venerable person like a shepherd king. These worthies surrounded
Domini and Androvsky, and behind streamed the curious, the envious,
the greedy and the desultory Arabs, who follow in the trail of every
stranger, hopeful of the crumbs that are said to fall from the rich
man's table. Shabah spoke French and led the conversation, which was
devoted chiefly to his condition of health. Some years before an
attempt had been made upon his life by poison, and since that time, as
he himself expressed it, his stomach had been "perturbed as a guard
dog in the night when robbers are approaching." All efforts to console
or to inspire him with hope of future cure were met with a stern
hopelessness, a brusque certainty of perpetual suffering. The idea
that his stomach could again know peace evidently shocked and
distressed him, and as they all waded together through the sand,
pioneered by the glorified Batouch, Domini was obliged to yield to his
emphatic despair, and to join with him in his appreciation of the
perpetual indigestion which set him apart from the rest of the world
like some God within a shrine. The skittish boy, his brother, who wore
kid gloves, cast at her sly glances of admiration which asked for a
return. The black tutor grinned. And the Caid of the Nomads punctuated
their progress with loud grunts of heavy satisfaction, occasionally
making use of Batouch as interpreter to express his hopes that they
would visit his palace in the town, and devour a cous-cous on his

When they came to the tents it was necessary to entertain these
personages with coffee, and they finally departed promising a speedy
return, and full of invitations, which were cordially accepted by
Batouch on his employer's behalf before either Domini or Androvsky had
time to say a word.

As the /cortege/ disappeared over the sands towards the city Domini
burst into a little laugh, and drew Androvsky out to the tent door to
see them go.

"Society in the sands!" she exclaimed gaily. "Boris, this is a new
experience. Look at our guests making their way to their palaces!"

Slowly the potentates progressed across the white dunes towards the
city. Shabah wore a long red cloak. His brother was in pink and gold,
with white billowing trousers. The Caid of the Nomads was in green.
They all moved with a large and conscious majesty, surrounded by their
obsequious attendants. Above them the purple sky showed a bright
evening star. Near it was visible the delicate silhouette of the young
moon. Scattered over the waste rose many koubbahs, grey in the white,
with cupolas of gypse. Hundreds of dogs were barking in the distance.
To the left, on the vast, rolling slopes of sand, glared the
innumerable fires kindled before the tents of the Ouled Nails. Before
the sleeping tent rose the minarets and the gilded cupolas of the city
which it dominated from its mountain of sand. Behind it was the
blanched immensity of the plain, of the lonely desert from which
Domini and Androvsky had come to face this barbaric stir of life. And
the city was full of music, of tomtoms throbbing, of bugles blowing in
the Kasba, of pipes shrieking from hidden dwellings, and of the faint
but multitudinous voices of men, carried to them on their desolate and
treeless height by the frail wind of night that seemed a white wind,
twin-brother of the sands.

"Let us go a step or two towards the city, Boris," Domini said, as
their guests sank magnificently down into a fold of the dunes.

"Towards the city!" he answered. "Why not--?" He glanced behind him to
the vacant, noiseless sands.

She set her impulse against his for the first time.

"No, this is our town life, our Sahara season. Let us give ourselves
to it. The loneliness will be its antidote some day."

"Very well, Domini," he answered.

They went a little way towards the city, and stood still in the sand
at the edge of their height.

"Listen, Boris! Isn't it strange in the night all this barbaric music?
It excites me."

"You are glad to be here."

She heard the note of disappointment in his voice, but did not respond
to it.

"And look at all those fires, hundreds of them in the sand!"

"Yes," he said, "it is wonderful, but the solitudes are best. This is
not the heart of the desert, this is what the Arabs call it, 'The
belly of the Desert.' In the heart of the desert there is silence."

She thought of the falling of the wind when the Sahara took them, and
knew that her love of the silence was intense. Nevertheless, to-night
the other part of her was in the ascendant. She wanted him to share
it. He did not. Could she provoke him to share it?

"Yet, as we rode in, I had a feeling that the heart of the desert was
here," she said. "You know I said so."

"Do you say so still?"

"The heart, Boris, is the centre of life, isn't it?"

He was silent. She felt his inner feeling fighting hers.

"To-night," she said, putting her arm through his, and looking towards
the city. "I feel a tremendous sympathy with human life such as I
never felt before. Boris, it comes to me from you. Yes, it does. It is
born of my love for you, and seems to link me, and you with me, to all
these strangers, to all men and women, to everything that lives. It is
as if I was not quite human before, and my love for you had made me
completely human, had done something to me that even--even my love for
God had not been able to do."

She lowered her voice at the last words. After a moment she added:

"Perhaps in isolation, even with you, I could not come to
completeness. Perhaps you could not in isolation even with me. Boris,
I think it's good for us to be in the midst of life for a time."

"You wish to remain here, Domini?"

"Yes, for a time."

The fatalistic feeling that had sometimes come upon her in this land
entered into her at this moment. She felt, "It is written that we are
to remain here."

"Let us remain here, Domini," he said quietly.

The note of disappointment had gone out of his voice, deliberately
banished from it by his love for her, but she seemed to hear it,
nevertheless, echoing far down in his soul. At that moment she loved
him like a woman he had made a lover, but also like a woman he had
made a mother by becoming a child.

"Thank you, Boris," she answered very quietly. "You are good to me."

"You are good to me," he said, remembering the last words of Father
Roubier. "How can I be anything else?"

Directly he had spoken the words his body trembled violently.

"Boris, what is it?" she exclaimed, startled.

He took his arm away from hers.

"These--these noises of the city in the night coming across the sand-
hills are extraordinary. I have become so used to silence that perhaps
they get upon my nerves. I shall grow accustomed to them presently."

He turned towards the tents, and she went with him. It seemed to her
that he had evaded her question, that he had not wished to answer it,
and the sense sharply awakened in her by a return to life near a city
made her probe for the reason of this. She did not find it, but in her
mental search she found herself presently at Mogar. It seemed to her
that the same sort of uneasiness which had beset her husband at Mogar
beset him now more fiercely at Amara, that, as he had just said, his
nerves were being tortured by something. But it could not be the
noises from the city.

After dinner Batouch came to the tent to suggest that they should go
down with him into the city. Domini, feeling certain that Androvsky
would not wish to go, at once refused, alleging that she was tired.
Batouch then asked Androvsky to go with him, and, to Domini's
astonishment, he said that if she did not mind his leaving her for a
short time he would like a stroll.

"Perhaps," he said to her, as Batouch and he were starting, "perhaps
it will make me more completely human; perhaps there is something
still to be done that even you, Domini, have not accomplished."

She knew he was alluding to her words before dinner. He stood looking
at her with a slight smile that did not suggest happiness, then added:

"That link you spoke of between us and these strangers"--he made a
gesture towards the city--"I ought perhaps to feel it more strongly
than I do. I--I will try to feel it."

Then he turned away, and went with Batouch across the sand-hills,
walking heavily.

As Domini watched him going she felt chilled, because there was
something in his manner, in his smile, that seemed for the moment to
set them apart from each other, something she did not understand.

Soon Androvsky disappeared in a fold of the sands as he had
disappeared in a fold of the sands at Mogar, not long before De
Trevignac came. She thought of Mogar once more, steadily, reviewing
mentally--with the renewed sharpness of intellect that had returned to
her, brought by contact with the city--all that had passed there, as
she never reviewed it before.

It had been a strange episode.

She began to walk slowly up and down on the sand before the tent.
Ouardi came to walk with her, but she sent him away. Before doing so,
however, something moved her to ask him:

"That African liqueur, Ouardi--you remember that you brought to the
tent at Mogar--have we any more of it?"

"The monk's liqueur, Madame?"

"What do you mean--monk's liqueur?"

"It was invented by a monk, Madame, and is sold by the monks of El-

"Oh! Have we any more of it?"

"There is another bottle, Madame, but I should not dare to bring it

He paused.

"If what, Ouardi?"

"If Monsieur were there."

Domini was on the point of asking him why, but she checked herself and
told him to leave her. Then she walked up and down once more on the
sand. She was thinking now of the broken glass on the ground at
Androvsky's feet when she found him alone in the tent after De
Trevignac had gone. Ouardi's words made her wonder whether this
liqueur, brought to celebrate De Trevignac's presence in the camp, had
turned the conversation upon the subject of the religious orders;
whether Androvsky had perhaps said something against them which had
offended De Trevignac, a staunch Catholic; whether there had been a
quarrel between the two men on the subject of religion. It was
possible. She remembered De Trevignac's strange, almost mystical,
gesture in the dawn, following his look of horror towards the tent
where her husband lay sleeping.

To-night her mind--her whole nature--felt terribly alive.

She tried to think no more of Mogar, but her thoughts centred round
it, linked it with this great city, whose lights shone in the distance
below her, whose music came to her from afar over the silence of the

Mogar and Amara; what had they to do with one another? Leagues of
desert divided them. One was a desolation, the other was crowded with
men. What linked them together in her mind?

Androvsky's fear of both--that was the link. She kept on thinking of
the glance he had cast at the watch-tower, to which Trevignac had been
even then approaching, although they knew it not. De Trevignac! She
walked faster on the sand, to and fro before the tent. Why had he
looked at the tent in which Androvsky slept with horror? Was it
because Androvsky had denounced the religion that he reverenced and
loved? Could it have been that? But then--did Androvsky actively hate
religion? Perhaps he hated it, and concealed his hatred from her
because he knew it would cause her pain. Yet she had sometimes felt as
if he were seeking, perhaps with fear, perhaps with ignorance, perhaps
with uncertainty, but still seeking to draw near to God. That was why
she had been able to hope for him, why she had not been more troubled
by his loss of the faith in which he had been brought up, and to which
she belonged heart and soul. Could she have been wrong in her
feeling--deceived? There were men in the world, she knew, who denied
the existence of a God, and bitterly ridiculed all faith. She
remembered the blasphemies of her father. Had she married a man who,
like him, was lost, who, as he had, furiously denied God?

A cold thrill of fear came into her heart. Suddenly she felt as if,
perhaps, even in her love, Androvsky had been a stranger to her.

She stood upon the sand. It chanced that she looked towards the camp
of the Ouled Nails, whose fires blazed upon the dunes. While she
looked she was presently aware of a light that detached itself from
the blaze of the fires, and moved from them, coming towards the place
where she was standing, slowly. The young moon only gave a faint ray
to the night. This light travelled onward through the dimness like an
earth-bound star. She watched it with intentness, as people watch any
moving thing when their minds are eagerly at work, staring, yet
scarcely conscious that they see.

The little light moved steadily on over the sands, now descending the
side of a dune, now mounting to a crest, and always coming towards the
place where Domini was standing, And presently this determined
movement towards her caught hold of her mind, drew it away from other
thoughts, fixed it on the light. She became interested in it, intent
upon it.

Who was bearing it? No doubt some desert man, some Arab. She imagined
him tall, brown, lithe, half-naked, holding the lamp in his muscular
fingers, treading on bare feet silently, over the deep sand. Why had
he left the camp? What was his purpose?

The light drew near. It was now moving over the flats and seemed, she
thought, to travel more quickly. And always it came straight towards
where she was standing. A conviction dawned in her that it was
travelling with an intention of reaching her, that it was carried by
someone who was thinking of her. But how could that be? She thought of
the light as a thing with a mind and a purpose, borne by someone who
backed up its purpose, helping it to do what it wanted. And it wanted
to come to her.

In Mogar! Androvsky had dreaded something in Mogar. De Trevignac had
come. He dreaded something in Amara. This light came. For an instant
she fancied that the light was a lamp carried by De Trevignac. Then
she saw that it gleamed upon a long black robe, the soutane of a

As she and Androvsky rode into Amara she had asked herself whether his
second dread would be followed, as his first dread had been, by an
unusual incident. When she saw the soutane of a priest, black in the
lamplight, moving towards her over the whiteness of the sand, she said
to herself that it was to be so followed. This priest stood in the
place of De Trevignac.

Why did he come to her?


When the priest drew close to the tent Domini saw that it was not he
who carried the lantern, but a native soldier, one of the Tirailleurs,
formerly called Turcos, who walked beside him. The soldier saluted
her, and the priest took off his broad, fluffy black hat.

"Good-evening, Madame," he said, speaking French with the accent of
Marseilles. "I am the Aumonier of Amara, and have just heard of your
arrival here, and as I was visiting my friends on the sand-hills
yonder, I thought I would venture to call and ask whether I could be

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest