“I share my godmother’s great faith in you. Good night.”
She put out her hand as he salaamed with hands to brow and lips and heart. Perhaps that was why he failed to see it.
Or was it, perhaps, that he still felt the softness of her against his heart?
If you are dying of thirst, one drop of water will not assuage you!
“A handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse.”
Whilst Damaris was trying to soothe her wounded pride at Karnak, Ben Kelham was suffering the tortures of the nethermost pit down Assouan way.
His heart was not in “lion” at all, it was literally at Damaris’ feet.
He had not rushed away in pique after her refusal of him on the night of the fancy-dress ball; nor with any vague idea of causing her to regret her decision in realising the vacuum, in her existence which his absence might make. He had not an ounce of subtlety or vanity in his nature. He had gone because he thought it would be the decent thing to do as far as she was concerned, and also to hide his hurt and disappointment, which were deep. The rumour of lion was genuine and the excitement, extending far down the Nile, intense. In fact, with the aid of the Oriental’s prodigal imagination the one royal beast of feminine persuasion which was reported as having been seen prowling around Deir el-Bahari had been multiplied to two pairs ravaging the outskirts of Assouan.
He sat drinking coffee with jolly Sybil Sidmouth and her nerve-stricken stepmother in the lounge of the Savoy Hotel in Assouan just at the moment when Damaris sat herself down on the broken column in the Hypostyle Hall.
“Jolly bad luck we’ve had, haven’t we?” said Sybil.
Kelham nodded his head. The last post had come in, with nothing for him but a few letters from home.
“Yes, rotten!” he replied after a moment. “She might have sent me a line.”
Sybil’s stepmother moved restlessly in her chair.
Ridden with nerves, she was also mother of twin-daughters neurotic and plain who, sered by nature and yellowed by time and on the wrong side of the matrimonial hedge, had been only too glad to foist her on to the plump shoulders of jolly, capable, pretty Sybil and to get rid of them both for the winter.
In the last week or so a sprouting of hope had pierced the matchmaking soil in the querulous lady’s really well-intentioned heart, for, like the proverbial half-loaf, a step-son-in-law is distinctly better than none at all.
But Sybil only smiled at the absent-mindedness of the young man’s remark.
For weeks she had been the recipient of his confidences. He had dragged her, suffocating, down into the mud-depths of the diffidence in which he wallowed; had tugged her, gasping, to the Olympian heights from which he viewed a world of love, all rosy-red; had flung her, well-nigh senseless from exhaustion, upon the saw-teethed rocks of despair; and had taken her paddling in the wash of his vapourings.