Billy leaned suddenly across the table.
“You have forgotten it’s the best of the moon to-night?” he asked. “You must let me take you to see it on Karnak.”
Falconer gave him a very blank look.
“We’ve already planned for that,” said he.
“We’ll all go,” cried Arlee, with instant pleasantness. “We mustn’t miss it for anything.”
“You haven’t seen the moon on the temple yet?” Billy inquired of Lady Claire in the pause that ensued.
“Only once—four nights ago. But it wasn’t full then.”
Billy remembered that moon acutely. It had lighted two fugitives across a waste of sand. He saw a little figure swaying rhythmically high upon a camel, a quaint, old-world figure in misty white, with a shimmering silver veil—like Rebecca coming across the desert, he thought oddly. Then he looked up and saw a most modern figure in white across the table, nibbling a cress sandwich, and laughing at some jest of the Englishman’s....
With a start he realized that Lady Claire was waiting for an answer.
“I beg your pardon. You asked——?”
“If you had seen the temple in moonlight, Mr. Hill.”
“Not Karnak—only Luxor—night before last.”
“Only Luxor!” The girl beside him laughed. “How spoiled you are, Mr. Hill! Only Luxor!”
It came to Billy, with the force of revelation, that it was going to be only a great many things for him after this.... Those wild days in the desert had seen to that, with devastating completeness.... Girls were only other girls—and delight in them a lost word. This charming one beside him, with the friendly eyes where a faint shadow of wistfulness underlay the surface brightness, was only Lady Claire....
He wondered if he was going on like this forever. He wondered if he was everlastingly to carry this memory about with him, like a bullet.... Suddenly he felt enraged at himself, at his dumb pain and useless longings, and with a stanch semblance of animation he flung himself into the flow of talk which this pretty English girl was so ready to offer him.
UPON THE PYLON
Two miles of Sphinxes in the moonlight—a double row of them on each side of the way from the temple of Luxor—and then a towering pylon overhead. Karnak was reached.
Out of the victoria jumped two young men in evening clothes, one sandy-haired with a slight moustache, the other black-haired and clean shaven, and handed out three ladies. The first lady was middle-aged and haughty featured, in a black evening gown overhung with a black and gold Assiout shawl; the second was a tall girl in a rose cloak, the third was a small girl, and her cloak was a delicate blue.
There was a pause at the pylon for the presentation of the little red entrance books, and then the gate closed behind them, and the five moved cautiously forward into the shadowy dark of the confusion of the ruins. Beside the blue-cloaked girl bent the sandy-haired young man; the black-haired young man was between the rose-cloaked girl and the lady with the Roman nose.