“If I am, I don’t know it,” she laughed tremulously. Then, “Isn’t this crazy!” she burst forth with.
“It’s—it’s off the beaten track,” Billy B. Hill admitted. “It’s a jump back into the Middle Ages.” His note of laughter joined hers as they sat staring owlishly at each other through the dark of the after-storm.
A little longer they talked, their questions and answers flitting back and forth over those six strange days; then, as the excitement waned, Billy heard a sleepy little sigh and saw a small hand covering a yawn. The girl’s slender shoulders were wilting with incalculable fatigue.
Instantly he commanded sleep, and obediently she curled down into the little nest he prepared, pillowing her head upon his coat, and almost instantly he heard her rhythmic breathing, slow and unhurried as a little child. His heart swelled with a feeling for which he had no name, as he sat there, his back against a camel, staring out into the night, an unknown feeling in which joy was very deep and triumph was merged into a holy thankfulness.
He had meant but forty winks, but it had been dark when his eyes closed and he opened them to the unreal half-lights of early dawn. The sky was pearl; the sands were fawn-colored; the crest of a low hill to the east shone as if it were living gold, and the next instant it seemed as if a fire were kindled upon it. It was the sun surging up into the heavens, and great waves of color, like a sea of flame, mounted higher and higher with it.
Impulsively Billy bent over the little figure sleeping so soundly at his side, speaking her name gently. And Arlee, waking with a start and a catch of her breath that went to his heart, opened her eyes on a wild splendor of morning that seemed the outer aspect of the radiant joy within her.
They looked and looked while the east flamed like a burning Rome, and then the glow softened and paled and dissolved in mysteries and miracles of color, in tender rose and exquisite shell pinks, in amethysts and violets and limpid, delicate, fair greens. All about them the sands were turning to gold, and the rim of the distant horizon grew clearer and clearer against the brightening blue of the sky, like a great circling tawny sea lapping on every side the arch of the heavens.
As they looked their hearts stirred and quickened with that incommunicable thrill of the desert, and their eyes turned and sought each other in silence. The gold of the sun was on Arlee’s hanging hair and the morning-blue of the sky in her eyes; her face was flushed from sleep and a tiny tendril still clung to the pink cheek on which she had been sleeping. Somehow that inconsequent small tendril roused in Billy a thrill of absurd tenderness and delight.... She was so very small and childish, sitting there in the Libyan desert with him, looking up at him with such adorable simplicity.... In her eyes he seemed to see something of the wonder and the joy in his. It was a moment of magic. It brought a lump into his throat.... He wanted to bend over her reverently, to lift a strand of that shining hair to his lips, to touch the sandy little hands....