Somehow he managed not to. The moment of longing and of glamor passed.
“It’s exactly as if we’d been shipwrecked!” said Arlee, looking about with an air of childish delight.
“On a very large island,” he smiled back, and felt a furtive pain mingling with his joy. He was just her rescuer to her, of course; she accepted him simply as a heaven-dropped deliverer; her thoughts had not been going out to him in those long days as his had gone to her.... Decisively he jumped to his feet and said breakfast. Where was it? What was to be done?
Directions were vague. They had come south on the edge of the desert, and the Nile lay somewhere to the east of them, and to the east, therefore lay breakfast and trains and telegraph lines and all the outposts of civilization.
To the east they rode then, straight toward the tinted dawn, and as they went they laughed out at each other on their strange mounts like two children on a holiday. Their spirits lifted with the beauty of the morning, and with that strange primitive exhilaration of the desert, that wild joy in vast, lonely reaches, in far horizons and illimitable space. The air intoxicated them; the leaping light and the free winds fired them, and with laughing shouts and challenges they urged their camels forward in a wild race that sent the desert hares scattering to right and left. Like runaways they tore over the level wastes and through the rolling dunes, and at last, spent and breathless, they pulled back into a walk their excited beasts that squealed and tossed their tasseled heads.
Their eyes met in a gaiety of the spirit that no words could express. When Arlee spoke she merely cried out, “I’ve read the camel had four paces, but mine has forty-four,” and Billy gave back, “And forty-three are sudden death!” and their ringing laughter made a worried little jackal draw back his cautious nose into his rocky lair.
They were in broken ground now, more and more rocky, leading through the low hills ahead of them, and great clumps of grayish mit minan and bright green hyssop dotted the amber of the sands. Here and there the fork-like helga showed its purple blossom, and sometimes a scarlet ice-plant gleamed at them from a rocky crack. Across their path two great butterflies strayed, as gold and jeweled as the day. High overhead, black against the stainless blue, hung a far hawk.
At last the way entered a narrow defile among the rocky hills, and a sharp curve led them finally out upon the other side, looking down into green fields, as straight and trim as a checker board in their varying tints, and off over the far Nile. The fertile lands were wide here, and fed with broad canals that offered the surprise of boats’ white wings between the fields of grain. Not far ahead, before the desert sands reached that magic green rose a group of palms, and near them some mud houses and a pigeon tower.
“Breakfast,” said Billy triumphantly, and gaily they rode down on the sleeping village.