There was truth in that—and truth in what she said about the danger of returning to the city. They were already lingering overlong and Billy jumped up and packed their supply of food in sudden haste. It was folly, of course, to dream of the entire trip to Thebes on camelback, but Girgeh was about fifty miles south, and it would be safer and almost as near to push on there or to the next town, wherever that was, and there get the train as to return to Assiout....
Oh, Billy, Billy! What specious argument! And why must every bright delightful fruit be forbidden by dull care or justified by flagrantly untenable artifice? Who but a fool would boggle over this chance, this gloriously deserved crown of the adventure, this gay, random ride over the deserts with Arlee?... To her it was nothing but a prolonging of the lark into which the affair had miraculously been turned. Billy was Big Brother—the American Big Brother with whom one might go safely adventuring for a day or a year.... And suddenly Billy felt a warm gladness within him. Not even her escapade with the unspeakable Turk had been able to shake her dear faith in her own countrymen.... He was not man to her; he was American. Billy waved the flag loyally in his grateful thoughts.
Aloud he said, “There’s risk in trying to go back, of course. That’s what they’re expecting of us. But there will be uncertainty in going on——”
“I rather like it. It’s the certainty that frightens,” she gave back eagerly. “I want the way that puts the greatest distance between me and that man.... I don’t care what else happens so he doesn’t find us.”
* * * * *
It is utterly astonishing how unastonishing the most astonishing situations become at the slightest wont.
Nothing on the face of it could have been more preposterous to Billy B. Hill’s imagination than trotting along the banks of the Nile on a camel with a gossamer-haired girl trotting beside him, two lone strays in a dark-skinned land, and yet after a few hours of it, it was the most natural thing in the world!
It was all color and light and vivid, unforgettable impressions. It was all sparkle and gaiety and charm. They were two children in a world of enchantment. Nothing could have been more fantastic than that day.
Sometimes they rode low on paths between green dhurra fields, sometimes they rode high along the Nile embankment, watching the blue waters alive with winged fleet, black buffaloes splashing in shallows under charge of little bronze babies of boys, watching all the scenes about them shift and change with magic mutability.
They lunched beside an old well, they dined by the river bank, and then as the velvet shadows deepened in the folds of the Arabian mountains across the river and the first stars pricked through the lilac sky above them, they pressed on hurriedly into the southwest that glowed like molten gold behind the black bars of the palms.... And by and by when even the after-glow had ceased to incarnadine the far horizon and the path was too black and strange for them, they turned off across the fertile valley into the edging desert again and saw the new moon rise like an arrow of fire over the rim of the world and pour forth a golden flood that lightened the way yet farther south for their tired beasts.