“But how could the maid bring you a message? Where were you? Where did she see you?”
“I was painting out in front of the palace.” Billy sounded more and more casual.
“You said you were an engineer,” said Arlee. His heart jumped. At least she had remembered that!
“So I am—the painting was just a joke.”
“And you happened there,” she began, wondering, and after he had opened his mouth to correct her, he closed it silently again. Gratitude was an unwieldy bond. He did not want to burden her with obligation. And he suspected, with a rankling sort of pang, that he was not the rescuer she had expected. So he made as light as possible of his entrance into the affair, telling her nothing at all of his first uneasiness and his interview with the one-eyed man which had confirmed his suspicions against the Captain’s character, and the masquerade he had adopted so he could hang about the palace. Instead he let her think him there by chance; he ascribed the delivery of Fritzi’s message to sheer miracle, and his presence under the walls that night to wanton adventure, with only a half-thought that she was involved.
Stoutly he dwelt upon Falconer’s part in the attack the next night, and upon the entire reasonableness of his abandonment of the trail. He put it down to his own mulishness that he had hung on and had learned through the little boy of her removal from the palace.
He interrupted himself then with questions, and she told him of her strange trip down the Nile in the dahabiyeh, under guard of the old woman and the Nubian. “But how did you come?” she demanded.
“Well, I just swung on to the same train he was in,” said Billy. “And I got out at Assiout because he’d bought a ticket there, but I couldn’t see a thing of him in the darkness and confusion of the station, and I had a horrid feeling that he’d gone somewhere else, the Lord knew where, to you. But the Imp—that’s the little Arab boy who adopted me and my cause—went racing up and down, and he got a glimpse of the Captain tearing off on a horse and behind him a man loping along with a bundle on a donkey, and the Imp raced behind him and yelled he’d dropped something. The man went back to look, and the Imp ran alongside him, asking him for work as a donkey boy. The fellow shook him off, but that had delayed him, and though we lost the horseman we kept the donkey-man in sight and followed him on to the village. I reconnoitered while the Imp stole these two camels—jolly good ones they are—and while I was trying to make out where you were, for there were lights in several windows, I suddenly heard your voice and then I saw a glare of fire. Well, my revolver was a passport.... Now, how about that fire? What started it?”
“I did; he—he was trying to make love to me,” she answered breathlessly, “and I just got to the candles.”
“Are you burned at all? Truthfully now? I never stopped to ask.”