That was all between them concerning the escapade.
Billy had raced back to the boat, and secured an earnest fifteen minutes with Arlee, who promised unlimited care, and then forced upon him the wretched sovereigns that she owed. She was feeling desperately spent and tired after her day of excitement, and declared herself unequal to the dance upon the boat that evening. Anxiously Billy had urged her to rest, and he spent a drifting and distracted evening roaming alone in the temple of Luxor listening to the distant music from the boat—thinking of Arlee.... Later he had learned that she remained up for at least two dances with Falconer.
So much for Friday. Saturday had been worse. Arlee had said on Friday night that she would join the passengers in the all-day excursion to the Tombs of the Kings, and Billy had somehow found himself in an arrangement with Lady Claire and Falconer to go with them. Then Arlee had not gone. Mrs. Eversham reported that she had a headache, and Falconer had very promptly dropped out of the party, leaving Billy with Lady Claire upon his hands, and so he went, and he and Lady Claire and the Evershams and about sixty other passengers had a brisk and busy day of it. When he returned just before dinner he saw Arlee, apparently headacheless, upon the deck of the steamer, chatting to Falconer.
That night she had attended the dance at the hotel under Miss Falconer’s wing. Billy had danced with her twice, and between times his pride had kept him aloof—she might just have made one sign! But though her bright friendliness was ever responsive; though she was instantly, submissively, ready to accept his invitations or fulfill his requests, he felt that there was something strangely lacking.
The gay spark of her coquetry was gone; she did not tease or play with him; animated as she was in company, when they were alone together a constraint fell upon her.
Miserably he felt that he reminded her of unhappy scenes and that she would be secretly relieved when he was gone.
So now he was absurdly glad to hear her declare, in answer to Lady Claire’s questionings, “Oh, but the desert is wonderful! I loved it in spite of——”
“In spite of—?” Lady Claire echoed.
“The sand,” said Arlee promptly. But under her lashes, her eyes came, at last, half-scared, to Billy’s face.
“But the sand is the desert,” Lady Claire was murmuring.
“It’s only part of it,” Billy took it upon himself to answer. “Space is the biggest part—and then color. And sometimes—heat.”
“You spent quite a time on the desert edge with some excavators, didn’t you?” said the English girl, and Billy fell into talk with her about his friend’s work, and Falconer and his sister engrossed Arlee.
And to-night was the very last night of her stay at Luxor. To-morrow the boat would take her on out of his life—unless he pursued her along the Nile, a foolish, unwanted intruder.... The three days here had all slipped from his clumsy grasp—they seemed to have put a widening distance between them.... He heard Falconer calculating that the boat would touch again at Luxor for the next Friday night. There seemed to be talk of a masked ball....