They were not. Sick with suspense, they had landed on the far side of the Nile, on their race with Time to the Gate of To-morrow.
“We will go to them to-morrow, thou and I. To the Gate of To-morrow, thou with the mare Pi-Kay, I with the stallion Sooltan, who will well-nigh kill thy mare, my woman, in jealousy. Yea!” He bent and whispered in her ear so quietly, so coldly as to cause the girl to tremble. “As I will kill anyone who looks at thee when thou art my wife.”
Then he laughed like a boy as he swung her round and held her at arm’s-length by both hands. “We will start to-morrow to meet them, when we will lay the question before them. And then--and then--why------?”
Damaris, with all the smart of the wound to her pride revived, had shaken her head.
“I want you--I want you--to------”
Hugh Carden Ali understood by the grace of intuition.
“We will start for Khargegh to-morrow,” he continued after a little pause. “And at the same time—if it will please thee, with thy consent—I will send my swiftest runner to Luxor, where he will despatch by cable the news of—oh! my beloved!—of our engagement—Allah! what a word to describe the opening of the gates of Paradise—to all the great cities of my country and of thy country. Have I thy consent?”
Incapable of speech, Damaris nodded; having cast the die, she trembled like a leaf; and at the sight of her, white, with big, frightened eyes staring at him and teeth driven into her lip, he took her in his arms.
“Thou art mine, beloved, mine as thou hast been in all the past, as thou wilt be in all the ages to come. All mine, thy heart, thy soul, thy body. I ask to gather no pebble from the path nor flower from the tree; I will have the jewelled necklace of thy beauty to hang above my heart, and the grove of thy sweetness in which to take my rest. I love thee, and for the agony of the hours passed in the ruined temples I will take my reward. I love thee, love thee, love thee!”
She made no sound when he bent and kissed her hair, but in the glory of the love which is that of youth, which is as a bud at dawn, the full flower at noon and a few petals at dusk, and of which the fragrance stays with you down all the ages, she raised her face so that he kissed her on the mouth.
And he kissed her closed eyes and the pillar of her throat and the whiteness of her shoulders, and her crimson mouth again and yet again, in the wonder of this, his hour of life, granted him by Allah who is God; and then raised his head and stared out across the desert.
From a great distance there came to him the drumming of a horse’s hoofs upon the sand.
“The true, strong, and sound
mind is the mind
that can embrace equally great things and small.”