He contemplated it now, however, contemplated it long and bitterly, when Arlee had gone back to her compartment and he sat silent in his beside the chattering Copts while the train rattled on and on. There would be three days at Luxor before the boat proceeded upon its southern journey. And then——
Three days.... Three miserable, paltry, insufficient days, blighted by the chaperoning Evershams.... Frantically he hoped against his dark foreboding that one menace at least might be averted—that by now Luxor would have ceased to shelter a certain sandy-haired young Englishman.
Luxor was warm and drowsy with afternoon sun. Motionless the fronds of the tall palms along the water front; motionless the columns of the temple reflected in the blue Nile. Even the almost continuous commotion of the landing stage was stilled.
The two big Nile steamers, of rival lines, lay quietly at rest, emptied of their tourists, and on the embankment the dragomans, the donkey boys, the innumerable venders, were lounging in the shade at dominoes or dice.
In the big white hotels facing the river many drawn blinds spoke of napping travelers, and in the shade of the garden of the Grand other travelers were whiling away the listless inertia of the hour before tea.
“I suppose it’s quite too early?” murmured a girl at one of the tables, in the shade of a big acacia. Her companion, fussing with a pastel sketch, answered absently, without looking up, “Oh, quite,” and then with a note of brisker attention, “I thought we were waiting for Robert?”
“Do you think he’ll be back? It’s such a trip to the Tombs of the Kings, you know!”
“To be sure he’ll be back!” Miss Falconer spoke with asperity. “And why he wanted to go over it again—it’s odd you didn’t care to go, too, Claire,” she added, most inconsequently. “It was such an excellent opportunity—and you had already spoken of wishing to go again.”
“But not so exhaustively. They are doing the entire programme. I only wanted some particular things.”
“You could have done them.”
“And it was hot.”
“It must have been just as hot in the bazaars with Mr. Hill.”
This was purposeful vagueness and Miss Falconer’s crayon snapped. She made a sound of annoyance, then began gathering her sketching things tidily together. Presently, “He’s rather an agreeable person, that young American, after all,” she cannily observed.
“Why, after all?” Lady Claire was implacably aloof.
“Well, first impressions, you know——”
“My first impressions of Mr. Hill were very delightful.” The English girl laughed softly, her eyes full of reminiscent amusement. “He was a deus ex machina to me—I quite jumped at him, I assure you!”