“More, more, please!”
He held out to her the bag. She plunged her hands into it and came nearer to the gate, both hands full of money and held high above her head. The Arabs leapt up at her like dogs at a bone, and for a moment she waited, laughing with all her heart. Then she made a movement to throw the money over the heads of the near ones to the unfortunates who were dancing and shrieking on the outskirts of the mob. But suddenly her hands dropped and she uttered a startled exclamation.
The sand-diviner of the red bazaar, slipping like a reptile under the waving arms and between the furious bodies of the beggars, stood up before her with a smile on his wounded face, stretched out to her his emaciated hands with a fawning, yet half satirical, gesture of desire.
The money dropped from Domini’s fingers and rolled upon the sand at the Diviner’s feet. But though he had surely come to ask for alms, he took no heed of it. While the Arabs round him fell upon their knees and fought like animals for the plunder, he stood gaping at Domini. The smile still flickered about his lips. His hand was still stretched out.
Instinctively she had moved backwards. Something that was like a thrill of fear, mental, not physical, went through her, but she kept her eyes steadily on his, as if, despite the fear, she fought against him.
The contest of the beggars had become so passionate that Count Anteoni’s commands were forgotten. Urged by the pressure from behind those in the front scrambled or fell over the sacred threshold. The garden was invaded by a shrieking mob. Smain ran forward, and the autocrat that dwelt in the Count side by side with the benefactor suddenly emerged. He blew his whistle four times. At each call a stalwart Arab appeared.
“Shut the gate!” he commanded sternly.
The attendants furiously repulsed the mob, using their fists and feet without mercy. In the twinkling of an eye the sand was cleared and Smain had his hand upon the door to shut it. But the Diviner stopped him with a gesture, and in a fawning yet imperious voice called out something to the Count.
The Count turned to Domini.
“This is an interesting fellow. Would you like to know him?”
Her mind said no, yet her body assented. For she bowed her head. The Count beckoned. The Diviner stepped stealthily on to the sand with an air of subtle triumph, and Smain swung forward the great leaf of palm wood.
“Wait!” the Count cried, as if suddenly recollecting something. “Where is Monsieur Androvsky?”
“Isn’t he——?” Domini glanced round. “I don’t know.”
He went quickly to the door and looked out. The Arabs, silent now and respectful, crowded about him, salaaming. He smiled at them kindly, and spoke to one or two. They answered gravely. An old man with one eye lifted his hand, in which was a tomtom of stretched goatskin, and pointed towards the oasis, rapidly moving his toothless jaws. The Count stepped back into the garden, dismissed his pensioners with a masterful wave of the hand, and himself shut the door.