“These native women do not interest me. I see nothing attractive in them.”
For now, as then, she knew that he had lied.
Domini came into the ante-room alone. The three men had paused for a moment behind her, and the sound of a match struck reached her ears as she went listlessly forward to the door which was open to the broad garden path, and stood looking out into the sunshine. Butterflies were flitting here and there through the riot of gold, and she heard faint bird-notes from the shadows of the trees, echoed by the more distant twitter of Larbi’s flute. On the left, between the palms, she caught glimpses of the desert and of the hard and brilliant mountains, and, as she stood there, she remembered her sensations on first entering the garden and how soon she had learned to love it. It had always seemed to her a sunny paradise of peace until this moment. But now she felt as if she were compassed about by clouds.
The vagrant movement of the butterflies irritated her eyes, the distant sound of the flute distressed her ears, and all the peace had gone. Once again this man destroyed the spell Nature had cast upon her. Because she knew that he had lied, her joy in the garden, her deeper joy in the desert that embraced it, were stricken. Yet why should he not lie? Which of us does not lie about his feelings? Has reserve no right to armour?
She heard her companions entering the room and turned round. At that moment her heart was swept by an emotion almost of hatred to Androvsky. Because of it she smiled. A forced gaiety dawned in her. She sat down on one of the low divans, and, as she asked Count Anteoni for a cigarette and lit it, she thought, “How shall I punish him?” That lie, not even told to her and about so slight a matter, seemed to her an attack which she resented and must return. Not for a moment did she ask herself if she were reasonable. A voice within her said, “I will not be lied to, I will not even bear a lie told to another in my presence by this man.” And the voice was imperious.
Count Anteoni remained beside her, smoking a cigar. Father Roubier took a seat by the little table in front of her. But Androvsky went over to the door she had just left, and stood, as she had, looking out into the sunshine. Bous-Bous followed him, and snuffed affectionately round his feet, trying to gain his attention.
“My little dog seems very fond of your friend,” the priest said to Domini.
She lowered her voice.
“He is only a travelling acquaintance. I know nothing of him.”
The priest looked gently surprised and Count Anteoni blew forth a fragrant cloud of smoke.
“He seems a remarkable man,” the priest said mildly.
“Do you think so?”
She began to speak to Count Anteoni about some absurdity of Batouch, forcing her mind into a light and frivolous mood, and he echoed her tone with a clever obedience for which secretly she blessed him. In a moment they were laughing together with apparent merriment, and Father Roubier smiled innocently at their light-heartedness, believing in it sincerely. But Androvsky suddenly turned around with a dark and morose countenance.