Silence fell between them as the hotel woke to another sunlit day.
“Something will happen to decide me,” mused the old lady as, a little later, she took her mail from Hobson, who moved majestically about the room with bath-salts and towels. “From Ben,” she continued, flicking a lightning glance at the face which, went suddenly rosy pink as it rested against her knee. “Written from the Oasis of Kurkur near the First Cataract. He hasn’t seen lion yet, but has heard a lot about the one which is causing a panic amongst the dragomen in Luxor. Oh! how nice for him! Do you remember fat Sybil Sidmouth, the crack shot?”
It seemed that jolly Sybil Sidmouth, well known at Bisley and who had brought a thin stepmother devastated with nerves to winter in Luxor, had also fallen a victim to lion gossip, and had wired a bet to Ben Kelham that she would bring in the lion’s skin.
“They are meeting at Assouan to discuss plans . . .”
“Yes?” said Damaris indifferently, and added vindictively, “Knocking about in the desert might reduce her a bit,” and gave no thought to the moment of that very morning when, under some uncontrollable impulse, she had turned the stallion Sooltan and taken him back at full gallop and to within a few yards of the Arab who, in European riding-kit and boots from Peter Yapp, had raised his right hand as she had thundered past standing in her stirrups.
A woman could keep a poultry-farm till the last trump, and even then never awake to the fact that the same brand of corn is appreciated both by the goose and the gander!
And, sure enough, something happened to decide her grace before the setting of the sun.
“Oh! for a falconer’s voice
This tassel gentle back again.”
Lunch, desultory shopping and tea with friends in Cairo had been the order of the afternoon following the dawn which had found her grace at the window trying to come to a decision about her god-daughter. They were just returning from these festivities and were negotiating the last cross-roads of the Sharia Abbas when a native policeman, waving his arm like a semaphore, stepped into the slowly-moving stream of traffic.
Resulted the usual maelstrom of motors, native vehicles, stray animals and trams, in which tossed the native pedestrian as, agile and vociferous, he slipped in and out of the block, calling loudly upon Allah in his extremity.
“A native wedding, or something,” said Damaris, who was driving. “What fun!” then blushed divinely pink.
There was one gorgeous mounted figure in the laughing, happy, tumultuous crowd which came whirling across the road kept clear for it by the police.
Hugh Carden Ali had gone a-hawking in a certain part of the desert near the ancient City of On, where gazelle is sometimes seen and birds are plentiful.