The Mahdi looked at Naomi, and his face lightened. Naomi looked at Ali, and her pale face grew paler, and she passed a tress of her fair hair across her lips to smother a little nervous cry that began to break from her mouth. Then she looked at the Mahdi, and her lips parted and her eyes shone. Ali looked at both, and his face twitched and fell.
This was only the work of an instant, but it was enough. Enough for the Mahdi, for it told him a secret that the wisdom of life had not yet revealed; enough for Naomi, for a new sense, a sixth sense, had surely come to her; enough for Ali also, for his big little heart was broken.
“What matter about me?” thought Ali again. “Take her, Mahdi,” he said aloud in a shrill voice. “Her father is waiting for her—take her to him.”
“Lady,” said the Mahdi, “can you trust me?”
And then without a word she went to him; like the needle to the magnet she went to the Mahdi—a stranger to her, when all strangers were as enemies—and laid her hand in his.
Ali began to laugh, “I’m a fool,” he cried. “Who could have believed it? Why, I’ve forgotten to lock the Kasbah! The villains will escape. No matter, I’ll go back.”
“Stop!” cried the Mahdi.
But Ali laughed so loudly that he did not hear. “I’ll see to it yet,” he cried, turning on his heel. “Good night, Sidi! God bless you! My love to my father! Farewell!”
And in another moment he was gone.
THE FALL OF BEN ABOO
The roysterers in the Kasbah sat a long half-hour in ignorance of the doom that was impending. Squatting on the floor in little circles, around little tables covered with steaming dishes, wherein each plunged his fingers, they began the feast with ceremonious wishes, pious exclamations, cant phrases, and downcast eyes. First, “God lengthen your age,” “God cover you,” and “God give you strength.” Then a dish of dates, served with abject apologies from Ben Aboo: “You would treat us better in Fez, but Tetuan is poor; the means, Seedna, the means, not the will!” Then fish in garlic, eaten with loud “Bismillah’s.” Then kesksoo covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon, and meat on skewers, and browned fowls, and fowls and olives, and flake pastry and sponge fritters, each eaten in its turn amid a chorus of “La Ilah illa Allah’s.” Finally three cups of green tea, as thick and sweet as syrup, drunk with many “Do me the favour’s,” and countless “Good luck’s.” Last of all, the washing of hands, and the fumigating of garments and beard and hair by the live embers of scented wood burning in a brass censer, with incessant exchanges of “The Prophet—God rest him—loved sweet odours almost as much as sweet women.”