“It runs above the hall of banquets and into the selamlik,” whispered the Viennese. “It opens into Hamdi’s rooms, he says, and I know that a servant sleeps always at his door and another is at the foot of the stairs. So it would be madness to try that way.”
But Arlee stared thoughtfully into the secret place. “I am glad I know,” she said.
“Well, good-by, little one.” The Viennese was standing outside now, softly closing the door. For a moment her face remained in the opening. “You will not tell Hamdi that I came—no?” she demanded sharply, and then on Arlee’s quick reassurance she nodded, whispered good-by again, and drew back her little face.
The wall rolled into place and a gentle click told of the caught lock. The curtains fell back over the wall. And Arlee was left huddling there alone, feeling that it had all been a dream, but for the heavy scent that lingered in the air and the wild fear beating in her heart.
A DESPERATE GAME
Very slowly the black night grayed down into a wan, spectral morning, and slowly the gray morning paled into a dim mother-of-pearl dawn. And then suddenly the mother-of-pearliness brightened into a shimmering opal, and the ray of pale gold light slanted through the barred window and the bright face of new day peeped over the sill, staring out of countenance the lurking shadows of the night.
And then Arlee’s eyes closed, and the heart which had been beating like a frightened rabbit’s at every sound and shadow steadied into a rhythm as regular as a clock. She slept like a tired baby; while the light grew brighter and higher, and reached in over the shining dressing table, over the white piano, to rest upon the oblivious face upon the couch and to play with the bright, tangled hair.
The first knocking upon the door did not disturb that sleep, and it was a long time before the knock was again sounded. Then Arlee heard and sprang to her feet in a lightning rush of consciousness. It was Mariayah again, and the water jars which already looked familiar to her, and after the water jars appeared more roses and with the roses a letter.
Those roses came, the letter explained, to droop their heads before her loveliness, which put theirs to shame. They would greet her as humbler sisters greet a fairer. For they were roses of a day, but she was the Rose of Life. The capitals were Kerissen’s own. And then abruptly the letter demanded:
Did I frighten you last night? Is it so strange to you that you have magic to make a man forget all the barriers of your convention? Do you not know you have an enchantment which distills in the blood and changes it to wine? You are the Rose of Life, the Rose of Desire, and no man can look upon you without longing. But you must not be angry at me for that, for I am your slave, and would strew roses always