“There, there, my darling!” he kept on saying. “There, there, my darling!” He could feel the snuggling of her cheek against his shoulder. He had got her—had got her! He was somehow certain that she would not draw back now. And in the wonder and ecstasy of that thought, all the world above her head, the stars in their courses, the wood which had frightened her, seemed miracles of beauty and fitness. By such fortune as had never come to man, he had got her! And he murmured over and over again:
“I love you!” She was resting perfectly quiet against him, while her heart ceased gradually to beat so fast. He could feel her cheek rubbing against his coat of Harris tweed. Suddenly she sniffed at it, and whispered:
“It smells good.”
When summer sun has burned all Egypt, the white man looks eagerly each day for evening, whose rose-coloured veil melts opalescent into the dun drift, of the hills, and iridescent above, into the slowly deepening blue. Pierson stood gazing at the mystery of the desert from under the little group of palms and bougainvillea which formed the garden of the hospital. Even-song was in full voice: From the far wing a gramophone was grinding out a music-hall ditty; two aeroplanes, wheeling exactly like the buzzards of the desert, were letting drip the faint whir of their flight; metallic voices drifted from the Arab village; the wheels of the water-wells creaked; and every now and then a dry rustle was stirred from the palm-leaves by puffs of desert wind. On either hand an old road ran out, whose line could be marked by the little old watch-towers of another age. For how many hundred years had human life passed along it to East and West; the brown men and their camels, threading that immemorial track over the desert, which ever filled him with wonder, so still it was, so wide, so desolate, and every evening so beautiful! He sometimes felt that he could sit for ever looking at it; as though its cruel mysterious loveliness were—home; and yet he never looked at it without a spasm of homesickness.
So far his new work had brought him no nearer to the hearts of men. Or at least he did not feel it had. Both at the regimental base, and now in this hospital—an intermediate stage—waiting for the draft with which he would be going into Palestine, all had been very nice to him, friendly, and as it were indulgent; so might schoolboys have treated some well-intentioned dreamy master, or business men a harmless idealistic inventor who came visiting their offices. He had even the feeling that they were glad to have him about, just as they were glad to have their mascots and their regimental colours; but of heart-to-heart simple comradeship—it seemed they neither wanted it of him nor expected him to give it, so that he had a feeling that he would be forward and impertinent to offer it. Moreover, he no longer knew how. He was very lonely. ‘When I come face to face with death,’ he would think, ’it will be different. Death makes us all brothers. I may be of real use to them then.’