The tomtom and the shriek that went with it made it a fierce crescendo.
“That means he is starving—the old hypocrite! Aren’t they like the wolves in your Russia, Monsieur? But we must feed them. We mustn’t let them devour our Beni-Mora. That’s it!”
He threw the string on to the sand, plunged his hand into the bag and brought it out full of copper coins. The mouths opened wider, the hands waved more frantically, and all the dark eyes gleamed with the light of greed.
“Will you help me?” he said to Domini.
“Of course. What fun!”
Her eyes were gleaming too, but with the dancing fires of a gay impulse of generosity which made her wish that the bag contained her money. He filled her hands with coins.
“Choose whom you will. And now, Monsieur!”
For the moment he was so boyishly concentrated on the immediate present that he had ceased to observe whether the whim of others jumped with his own. Otherwise he must have been struck by Androvsky’s marked discomfort, which indeed almost amounted to agitation. The sight of the throng of Arabs at the gateway, the clamour of their voices, evidently roused within him something akin to fear. He looked at them with distaste, and had drawn back several steps upon the sand, and now, as the Count held out to him a hand filled with money, he made no motion to take it, and half turned as if he thought of retreating into the recesses of the garden.
“Here, Monsieur! here!” exclaimed the Count, with his eyes on the crowd, towards which Domini was walking with a sort of mischievous slowness, to whet those appetites already so voracious.
Androvsky set his teeth and took the money, dropping one or two pieces on the ground. For a moment the Count seemed doubtful of his guest’s participation in his own lively mood.
“Is this boring you?” he asked. “Because if so—”
“No, no, Monsieur, not at all! What am I to do?”
“Those hands will tell you.”
The clamour grew more exigent.
“And when you want more come to me!”
Then he called out in Arabic, “Gently! Gently!” as the vehement scuffling seemed about to degenerate into actual fighting at Domini’s approach, and hurried forward, followed more slowly by Androvsky.
Smain, from whose velvety eyes the dreams were not banished by the uproar, stood languidly by the porter’s tent, gazing at Androvsky. Something in the demeanour of the new visitor seemed to attract him. Domini, meanwhile, had reached the gateway. Gently, with a capricious deftness and all a woman’s passion for personal choice, she dropped the bits of money into the hands belonging to the faces that attracted her, disregarding the bellowings of those passed over. The light from all these gleaming eyes made her feel warm, the clamour that poured from these brown throats excited her. When her fingers were empty she touched the Count’s arm eagerly.