So matter at what hour of the day you meet him; be it at the hour of noon, when the scorpion basks blissfully in the scorching sun; be it at night, when the white fingers of the moon essay to close your eyes in the sleep that perchance may have no waking; or at dawn, when heart or soul, or whatever it be, is like unto running water in its strength, beware of that gaunt figure with crimson laughing mouth.
Men bewitched as with woman have followed; women bewitched as with man have followed. You will find their bones if you go far enough or dig deep enough; and leave yours to bleach with theirs if you have not strength to resist.
Beasts see it not at all.
So that through a certain unromantic yearning for oats under his loosening girth, the stallion Sooltan raced Damaris back to the sayis and safety.
She had not understood the import of the apparition in the desert any more than she perceived the figure of a man standing amongst the ruins, watching her.
Hugh Carden Ali knew that it was her last ride; the last time she would feed the stallion with sugar; her last day amongst the ruins of the City of On.
The blood of his fathers, even that of the men who had swept the desert for their women, warred with the blood of his mother of a gentler breed; so that, fearing the strength of the one or the weakness of the other, he had sacrificed the last ride to the love in his heart.
“The hundred-gated Thebes, where
twice ten-score in martial state
Of valiant men with steeds and cars march through each massy gate.”
There was no moon to break the shadows in the Great Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Amnon; neither was there sound or sign of life, the winter residents and bird-of-passage tourists being duly occupied in the festivities which are the order of the night in hotel life on the Nile.
It is not actually dangerous, nor is it actually wise, to visit the stupendous ruins of Egypt alone at night. The native has far too good an eye to business to lurk behind obelisk or column with intent to spring out and demand the purse of any stray unit of the cosmopolitan hordes which bring such wealth in the winter months to the land of the Pharaohs.
Rather not! Far greater joy for him at full noon is palming off upon your guileless self the spurious scarab at a price 300% above its intrinsic worth.
Incidents of that kind do not occur in the great tourist centres—though worse, far worse happens to the foolhardy or featherheaded in the by-paths and hidden corners of this mysterious land—but if you have the vision, the terrible silence of the Past, the supreme indifference of the great ruins to the passage of Time, the wonderful repose of the mighty blocks of stone piled in the days of the great Pharaohs, are apt to give a thrill to your heart and an impression to your mind which may last a lifetime.