Arlee rode like a fairy princess of mystery, the silver shawl which they had bought at a village to shield her from the sun, drooping in heavy folds from her head, its metal threads glimmering in the moon rays.... Her eyes were solemn with the beauty and the wonder, of the night, and the strange solitude and isolation; her look was ethereal to Billy and mystically lovely.
But Girgeh seemed to retreat farther and farther into the unknown south, and at last it was no fairy princess but only a very tired girl who slid stiffly down from the saddle, and pillowed a heavy head on Billy’s coat. And it was a very tired young man who lay beside her, listening to the deep breathing of the beasts and the faint breath that rose rhythmically beside him. Yet for a time he did not sleep. His heart was full of the awe and mystery of the moonlit world about him—and the awe and mystery of that little bit of the living world curled there so intimately in the dark....
With a reverent hand he drew the wraps he had purchased closer over her. The night was growing cold. Far off the jackals howled.... With his gun at hand he slept at last, and slept sound, though sand is the hardest mattress in the world and a camel’s back not the softest pillow....
“But I shall die,” said Arlee. “I shall simply die if I have to go another step upon that creature.”
She said it cheerfully, but firmly, a sleepy, sunburned little nomad, sitting cross-legged in the sands, slowly plaiting her honey-colored hair. “Even this,” she announced, indicating the slight gesture of braiding, “is agony.”
“It’s the morning after,” said Billy, testing his shoulder with wry grimaces. “It’s yesterday’s speed—and then this infernally cold night. No wonder we’re lame. Why, I have one universal crick wherever I used to have muscles. But let me call your attention to the fact that we are in the wilds of Egypt and that tangerines are hardly a lasting breakfast. Something has to be done.”
“Not upon camels,” said Arlee fixedly.
“They say it doesn’t hurt after an hour or so more.”
“I shouldn’t live to find out.”
“A walk,” he suggested, “a slow, swaying, gently undulating walk——?”
“A long, lingering, agonizing death,” the young lady translated. She tossed the curly end of her braid over her shoulder and rose, with sounds of lamentation. “I ought to have known better than to sit down again when I was once up,” she confided sadly.
“Just what,” inquired her companion, “is your idea for the day? How do you expect to reach Girgeh? It can’t be very far away now——”
“Then we’ll walk—we’ll walk,” she emphasized, “and tow those ships of the desert after us. That will be bad enough, but better—what’s that?”
Like a top, for all his stiffness, Billy spun about to stare where her finger pointed. Over the crest of a hillock, far to the north—yes, something was hurrying their way.