Arlee had no means of guessing whether these houses were the outskirts of that city she had glimpsed or whether they were a separate village. She only saw that they were being taken to the largest house of the place, which stood a little apart from the others and was half-surrounded by mud walls. Into this walled-in court her camel was led and halted and jerkingly it accomplished its collapsing descent, and Arlee found herself on her feet again, quite breathless, but very alert.
Her fleet glance saw a number of black-robed figures about a stair; the next instant a mantle was flung over her head and that compelling hand upon her wrist urged her swiftly forward, and up a flight of steps. Within were more steps and then a door. Thrusting back the mantle she found herself in the sudden twilight of a small, low-ceiled chamber. There was no other door to it but the one she heard bolted behind her; there was one window completely covered with brown mashrubiyeh. She flew to it; it looked out over wide sands, with a glimpse, toward the right, of a mud wall and pigeon houses. The room was musty and dusty and dirty; but the rugs in it were beautiful, and a divan was filled with pillows and hung with embroidered cotton hangings. Other pillows were on the floor about the walls. A green silk banner embroidered in gold hung upon one of those walls and a laquered table stood by the divan.
And as Arlee Beecher stood there in that strange, stifling room, the mutterings of foreign voices, the squeals of the camels, the bray of a donkey coming through that screened window, a sudden rage came over her which was too hot to bear. Her heart burned; her hands clenched; she could have beaten upon those walls with her helpless fists and screamed at the top of her unavailing lungs. It was a fury of despair that seized her, a fury that she fought back with every breath of sanity within her. Then suddenly the air was black. The room seemed to swim before her eyes and the ground came swaying dizzily up to meet her, and receive her spent unconsciousness.
* * * * *
Water had been brought; she woke to find herself upon the couch, the old woman woodenly sopping her head and hands. She smiled weakly into that strange dark face; it was as unchanged as if it had been carved from bronze. The business of reviving finished, the old woman left her a handkerchief damp with a keen scent and went about the work of unpacking a hamper that she brought in.
Dully, Arlee saw the preparations for a meal advancing. She shook her head at it; a cup of tea was all that she could touch. A lethargy had seized her; even the anger of revolt was gone. She closed her eyes languidly, grateful when the old woman went away, grateful when the darkness deepened. When it was quite night, she thought, she would break open the wooden screen and fling herself through the wood into the sands. She lay there passively waiting; her heavy eyes closed, and she slept.