She made no sound as she hurtled through the air. Mercifully perhaps was she dead, as she crashed down into the pit at the bottom of which great shapes prowled hungrily.
They did not stay to watch, not one of them.
Shouting and laughing, men and women ran back to the house, which in one hour they had stripped bare.
Just before the dawn a great flame shot skywards, an orange ribbon across the purple robe of dying Night.
* * * * * *
“There was an awful row in the Bazaar last night,” said Mr. Ephraim Perkins to his spouse facing him across the breakfast table. “They killed a woman and burned her house down.”
“Really, dear?” said Mrs. Ephraim Perkins, rasping butter on a piece of toast. “These natives want a firm hand over them. Poor thing! They usually stab each other in the East, don’t they?”
“Yes; I think so. But they threw this one into a lions’ den.”
“Now, that’s exaggeration, Ephraim.” The knife never stopped its rasping. “They would not be allowed to keep wild beasts in a populated quarter.”
“Stranger things happen in the native quarter, Maria,” misquoted Mr. Perkins, “than are dreamt of by the Government official.”
If we dared penetrate the labyrinths of the bazaar and stir with foolish finger the dust which lies thick upon immemorial custom, what should we not find?
But having a meed of wisdom in the full measure of our imperial insularity, we do not pry with foolish fingers; guessing, even knowing of the wild beasts in those labyrinths, we draw a glove upon the hand and walk delicately in the opposite direction, with half-closed eyes.
“I repeat, it is an exaggeration,” stubbornly replied Mrs. Ephraim Perkins, as she stretched for the marmalade. “And I do hope the fire-engines arrived in time.”
“A tale-bearer revealeth secrets;
but a man of
understanding holdeth his peace.”
It was the night of the full moon.
It was also the night of the cotillon given by a certain princelet of unpronounceable name and great wealth, who hailed from one of those countries in Europe where quasi-royalties abound.
The cotillon-favours were to be of extraordinarily fine quality. Rumour spoke of gold cigarette-cases and other such trifles, for both sexes; the supper was to be a Bacchanalian feast; every invitation had been accepted—ca va sans dire. The hotel was like a disturbed wasps’ nest, and the buzzing of the chatterers and the gossips well-nigh deafening.
Damaris had decided to go to the ball; in fact, since her storm of tears on her return from the unlucky visit to Denderah she had taken the broad view of the situation and had decided to give her neighbours no cause for comment and to continue the festive life, as led in the winter season on the Nile, until the return of her godmother; after which she would, as soon as possible, shake the dust of the land of the Pharaohs from off her feet.