“Not yet!” she said, loosening with filthy hand the uncombed masses of jet-black hair, which still retained something of the perfume of better days. “Not yet! Let me think awhile.”
And she paid no heed to the man, who sat staring at her, breathing heavily.
The right side of her face, untouched and perfect, showed in all its beauty against the dirty whiteness of the wall; her hair served as a mantle to the perfect figure in the soiled satin wrap; her crippled limbs showed not at all in the foul room lit by a wick floating in a saucer of oil.
The light went out suddenly.
Oh, Zulannah! surely your cap of misery was full to the brim!
“He that has patience may compass anything.”
Ben Kelham sat near the balustrade on the verandah of Shepheard’s Hotel just after breakfast, pretending to read the morning paper, whilst trying to make up his mind.
Sybil Sidmouth and her mother, owing to lack of accommodation, brought about by the crush of visitors in the huge caravanserai, had gone to the Savoy; for which the man was secretly thankful.
He wanted to eat out his heart all by himself in the appalling loneliness which had overwhelmed him when, on ringing up Heliopolis the night before, he had learned that Damaris and the duchess had transferred themselves to Luxor.
And you simply cannot indulge in your particular brand of malaise or dolour with an extreme optimist sitting opposite you at meals, or adjacent to your elbow at most other times.
He anathematised the postal system of Egypt; his own haste in accepting the girl’s refusal; the oriental imagination which magnified cats into lions; but, above all, the wash of that steamer (upon which Damaris had returned from Denderah) which had re-floated his own craft and sent him racing full steam ahead for Cairo.
Another hour of the infernal wait on the sandbank, and he would have transferred himself to one of the scores of small boats and been ferried across to Luxor, where he would have dined at the Winter Palace Hotel, whilst waiting to catch the express to Cairo, and perhaps have seen his beloved in the dining-room, or have heard that she was staying there.
He was thoroughly irritated as he pondered in his deliberate way as to the best thing to do.
Should he take the first train back to Luxor, or, as the duchess had not seen fit to acquaint him as to her movements, should he stay where he was, write her a letter, or send a telegram and wait for an answer? Anyway, he was irritated enough to scowl at the commissionaire who was rating a woman whom he had seen hanging about the street, doubtless with intent of soliciting a nickel coin from one of the great white race as he—or she—descended the steps to stroll along the street.