But when he had passed out of sight Cigarette shook herself free from the dancers with petulant impatience; she was not to be allured by flattery or drawn by entreaty back amongst them; she set her delicate pearly teeth tight, and vowed with a reckless, contemptuous, impetuous oath that she was tired; that she was sick of them; that she was no strolling player to caper for them with a tambourine; and with that declaration made her way out alone into the little open court under the stars, so cool, so still after the heat, and riot, and turbulence within.
There she dropped on a broad stone step, and leaned her head on her hand.
“Unsexed! Unsexed! What did he mean?” she thought, while for the first time, with a vague sense of his meaning, tears welled hot and bitter into her sunny eyes, while the pained color burned in her face. Those tears were the first that she had ever known, and they were cruel ones, though they lasted but a little time; there was too much fire in the young Bohemian of the Army not to scorch them as they rose. She stamped her foot on the stones passionately, and her teeth were set like a little terrier’s as she muttered:
“Unsexed! Unsexed! Bah, Monsieur Aristocrat! If you think so, you shall find your thought right; you shall find Cigarette can hate as men hate, and take her revenge as soldiers take theirs!”
Under the houses of hair.
It was just sunset.
The far-off summits of the Djurjura were tinted with the intense glare of the distant pines and cypresses cut sharply against the rose-warmed radiance of the sky. On the slopes of the hills white cupolas and terraced gardens, where the Algerine haouach still showed the taste and luxury of Algerine corsairs, rose up among their wild olive shadows on the groves of the lentiscus. In the deep gorges that were channeled between the riven rocks the luxuriance of African vegetation ran riot; the feathery crests of tossing reeds, the long, floating leaves of plants, filling the dry water-courses of vanished streams; the broad foliage of the wild fig, and the glowing, dainty blossoms of the oleander, wherever a trace of brook, or pool, or rivulet let it put forth its beautiful coronal, growing one in another in the narrow valleys, and the curving passes, wherever broken earth or rock gave shelter from the blaze and heat of the North African day.
Farther inland the bare, sear stretches of brown plain were studded with dwarf palm, the vast shadowless plateaux were desolate as the great desert itself far beyond; and the sun, as it burned on them a moment in the glory of its last glow, found them naked and grand by the sheer force of immensity and desolation, but dreary and endless, and broken into refts and chasms, as though to make fairer by their own barren solitude the laughing luxuriance of the sea-face of the Sahel.