“O God of the West! O Allah of the East! Give me one single hour of love!”
And the mare, Pi-Kay, wonderful in her beauty, raced from him far out into the desert, leaving him alone with his God; then stood quite still, with fine small ears pricked, waiting for the call she knew would come. And when it came ringing clear over the golden sand, she raced back to him and pushed against him, until he sprang upon her and turned her towards the East.
“By the war-horses,” he cried, quoting from Al-Koran, “which run swiftly to battle, with a panting noise; and by those who strike fire by dashing their hoofs against the stones; and by those who make a sudden invasion on the enemy early in the morning and therein raise the dust, and therein pass through the midst of the adverse troops . . . . by the Message of the Great Book and by my love will I wrest one hour from life.”
And urging the mare with the whip of love to the uttermost of her wonderful speed, he thundered back across the path of sand, which was to be trodden by his feet alone, in spite of the plots which Zulannah the courtesan was even then weaving about him—to her own advancement.
“_. . . . and she painted her face,
and tired her
head, and looked out at a window_.”
The house of the “Scarlet Enchantress,” with its balconies, turrets and outer and inner courts, stood quite by itself at one corner of the Square, in a big, neglected garden. It had been built by means of untold gold and the destruction of scores of miserable, picturesque hovels, which, poor as they might be, had however meant home to many of the needy in the Arabian quarters of Cairo. It would be useless to look for that building covered in white plaster now; it was, later, looted and burned to the ground.
A beautiful wanton of fourteen summers, ambitious, relentless, with the eyes of an innocent child, the morals of a jackal and a fair supply of brain-cunning rather than intellect, Zulannah sat this night of stars in a corner of her balcony overlooking the Square, smoking endless cigarettes.
Courtesan of the highest rank, she had plied her ruthless trade for three successful years, accumulating incredible wealth in jewels and hard cash. Her ambition knew no bounds; her greed no limit; her jealousy of other women had become a by-word in the north.
Physically she was perfect; otherwise, she had not one saving grace, and her enemies were legion. She had driven hard bargains, demanding the very rings off men’s fingers in exchange for kisses; shutting the door with callous finality in the face of those she had beggared; she had disowned her mother, who, stricken with ophthalmia, begged in the streets; she had no mercy for man, woman or beast, yet all had gone well until love had come to her.
Love comes to harlots and to queens as well as to us ordinary women, and they suffer every whit as much as we do, perhaps more keenly on account of the hopeless positions they fill.