A bronchitic cough had taken her to Cairo just as a sooted-up lung, left behind by the pneumonia which had followed the hunting accident had taken Ben Kelham to Heliopolis, and for recuperation of body or mind there is nothing to equal an Egyptian winter, even in a tourist-ridden centre.
Ben Kelham, Big Ben for short, on account of his six-feet-two, was heir to Sir Andrew Kelham, Bart., whose estate joined the lands of Squire Hethencourt, whom he looked upon as his greatest friend, and vice versa. Educated at Harrow, Ben Kelham and Hugh Carden Ali had been known on the Hill as David and Jonathan; so that the crimson, golden and brown threads were more than uncommonly twisted.
Ben was heavy in build and slow in every way, but he was still more sure than slow, and had never been known to give up when once he had set his mind to the accomplishment of a task, and although he had stood in absolute awe of beautiful Damaris since the day she had lengthened her skirts, yet had he determined to make her his wife, even if it meant following in Jacob’s footsteps to the tune of waiting many years.
He had confided his determination to his godmother, who had immediately taken the case in hand, and proceeded to throw bucketsful of cold water upon his suggestion of being on the quay or doorstep to welcome the girl to Egypt.
“My dear man,” replied the tactful old lady as she rasped a match on the sole of a crimson shoe and lit a fragrant Three Castles, “do remember that everything will be new to the child; she will be one vast ejaculation for at least a month. Let her get over that, let her realise that you are close at hand, but not the least bit anxious to be under her feet, and you’ll see. Remember, she is very young, just like a bit of dough which must be stuffed with the currants and raisins of knowledge and then well-baked in the oven of experience before it can be handed across Life’s counter to anyone. Further, take care not to blunder into any little trap she may set you out of pique.”
“But, dearest, I always do blunder when I’m out of the saddle.”
“Well, even if you do, for goodness’ sake keep your mouth shut. Be the strong, silent man; women love ’em. We revel in being clubbed and pulled into the cave by the hair; we may squeal a bit for the sake of appearances, but we cook the breakfast nest morning without a murmur! But just ask us to honour the cave by placing our foot over the threshold, and as sure as anything, you’ll find yourself making the early cup of tea.”
“Wide open and unguarded stand
Named by the four winds, North, South, East and West;
Portals that lead to an enchanted land. . .”
T. B. ALDRICH.
Damaris duly arrived in Egypt, accompanied by Wellington—who had shown no sign of incipient hydrophobia—and Jane Coop, her maid.