He took her outstretched hand, hesitated a moment, then lifted it to his lips, and went. It was cold as that of a corpse, and fell against her side again like the hand of a corpse. Masouda shrank back among the flowers of the garden as though to hide herself from him and all the world. When he had gone a few paces, eight or ten perhaps, Godwin turned and glanced behind him, and at that moment there came a great blaze of lightning. In its fierce and fiery glare he saw Masouda standing with outstretched arms, pale, upturned face, closed eyes, and parted lips. Illumined by the ghastly sheen of the levin her face looked like that of one new dead, and the tall red lilies which climbed up her dark, pall-like robe to her throat—yes, they looked like streams of fresh-shed blood.
Godwin shuddered a little and went his way, but as she slid thence into the black, embracing night, Masouda said to herself:
“Had I played a little more upon his gentleness and pity, I think that he would have offered me his heart—after Rosamund had done with it and in payment for my services. Nay, not his heart, for he has none on earth, but his hand and loyalty. And, being honourable, he would have kept his promise, and I, who have passed through the harem of Al-je-bal, might yet have become the lady D’Arcy, and so lived out my life and nursed his babes. Nay, Sir Godwin; when you love me—not before; and you will never love me—until I am dead.”
Snatching a bloom of the lilies into her hand, the hand that he had kissed, Masouda pressed it convulsively against her breast, till the red juice ran from the crushed flower and stained her like a wound. Then she glided away, and was lost in the storm and the darkness.
Chapter Twenty: The Luck of the Star of Hassan
An hour later the captain Abdullah might have been seen walking carelessly towards the tent where the brethren slept. Also, had there been any who cared to watch, something else might have been seen in that low moonlight, for now the storm and the heavy rain which followed it had passed. Namely, the fat shape of the eunuch Mesrour, slipping after him wrapped in a dark camel-hair cloak, such as was commonly worn by camp followers, and taking shelter cunningly behind every rock and shrub and rise of the ground. Hidden among some picketed dromedaries, he saw Abdullah enter the tent of the brethren, then, waiting till a cloud crossed the moon, Mesrour ran to it unseen, and throwing himself down on its shadowed side, lay there like a drunken man, and listened with all his ears. But the thick canvas was heavy with wet, nor would the ropes and the trench that was dug around permit him, who did not love to lie in the water, to place his head against it. Also, those within spoke low, and he could only hear single words, such as “garden,” “the star,” “princess.”
So important did these seem to him, however, that at length Mesrour crept under the cords, and although he shuddered at its cold, drew his body into the trench of water, and with the sharp point of his knife cut a little slit in the taut canvas. To this he set his eye, only to find that it served him nothing, for there was no light in the tent. Still, men were there who talked in the darkness.