What the excavator saw was more surprising. There was his friend Billy, whom two weeks before he had seen off on a Nile steamer returning to Cairo, in tropic splendor of white serge and Panama hat, now a scarlet spectacle of sunburn and dirt, in most disgraceful tweeds, and beside him what Burroughs took to be a child in tatterdemalion white, a silky, fluttering white, which even his untrained observation knew was hardly elected for desert wear. The little girl’s hair was hanging tangled over her shoulders, and was much the color of the sand with which her face was coated, and underneath that coating he saw that she was red as a peony with sun and wind. They were a startling pair.
Gravely, with unchanging eyes, he acknowledged the introduction, and then, “What’s this about robbers?” he went on. “What kind of a yarn are you putting over?”
“Nothing I want put over on the general public.” Billy was thinking very hard. “You’re going to be our salvation, Burroughs, but even to you—well, I’ll put it briefly. We were having a desert ride and some Turkish fellows who have annoyed her before chased us. There are our camels, just outside. And you can see one of the fellows on horseback keeping watch. The others are somewhere about.... And now, for heaven’s sake, get us a drink of water.”
Burroughs walked to the door of the tomb and looked out an instant, then he turned and went toward the back, returning with a small native jar full of water.
“I’ve no glass, but if you can manage this——?” he said to Arlee, and she clutched the cool pottery with two hot little hands and, murmuring a quick affirmative, she put it to her lips.
Then she held it out to Billy.
“I suppose—we mustn’t—–drink as much as we want.”
“I couldn’t,” said Billy, after a grateful swallowing. “I’d drain the Nile.... Got a camp here?”
“Yes. You’d have seen my men any other time of day, but we knocked off a while out of the sun,” Burroughs explained. “I’ve rigged up this tomb as living quarters while I’m here. Now what do you want me to do? Would you like a guard?”
“We’d like a guard and a bath and cold cream,” said Billy joyfully. “And then we’d like dinner and donkeys.”
“Umph—I should say you’d one donkey already in your party—careering around the desert with a little girl like this,” he vouchsafed, and Arlee’s eyes widened at his brusque nod at her. She was staring about her now with a curious interest, for all her aching tiredness, gazing wonderingly at the dazzling white walls with their strange and brilliant paintings. She saw they were in a long, deep chamber, from which other openings led to unimagined deeps.
“I guess you never were in a place like this before?” Burroughs inquired, and she shook her head dumbly, feeling suddenly too spent for words.
“Can she get a rest here?” said Billy anxiously. “We’ve had the devil of a ride.”