She got up, and they walked in silence till they saw once more the immense spaces of the desert bathed in the afternoon sun. As Domini looked at them again she knew that their wonder, their meaning, had increased for her. The steady crescendo that was beginning almost to frighten her was maintained—the crescendo of the voice of the Sahara. To what tremendous demonstration was this crescendo tending, to what ultimate glory or terror? She felt that her soul was as yet too undeveloped to conceive. The Diviner had been right. There was a veil around it, like the veil of the womb that hides the unborn child.
Under the jamelon tree she sat down once more.
“May—I light a cigar?” the Count asked.
He struck a match, lit a cigar, and sat down on her left, by the garden wall.
“Tell me frankly,” he said. “Do you wish to talk or to be silent?”
“I wish to speak to you.”
“I am sorry now I asked you to test Aloui’s powers.”
“Because I fear they made an unpleasant impression upon you.”
“That was not why I made you stop him.”
“You don’t understand me. I was not afraid. I can only say that, but I can’t give you my reason for stopping him. I wished to tell you that it was not fear.”
“I believe—I know that you are fearless,” he said with an unusual warmth. “You are sure that I don’t understand you?”
“Remember the refrain of the Freed Negroes’ song!”
“Ah, yes—those black fellows. But I know something of you, Miss Enfilden—yes, I do.”
“I would rather you did—you and your garden.”
“And—some day—I should like you to know a little more of me.”
“Thank you. When will you come back?”
“I can’t tell. But you are not leaving?”
The idea of leaving Beni-Mora troubled her heart strangely.
“No, I am too happy here.”
“Are you really happy?”
“At any rate I am happier than I have ever been before.”
“You are on the verge.”
He was looking at her with eyes in which there was tenderness, but suddenly they flashed fire, and he exclaimed:
“My desert land must not bring you despair.”
She was startled by his sudden vehemence.
“What I would not hear!” she said. “You know it!”
“It is not my fault. I am ready to tell it to you.”
“No. But do you believe it? Do you believe that man can read the future in the sand? How can it be?”
“How can a thousand things be? How can these desert men stand in fire, with their naked feet set on burning brands, with burning brands under their armpits, and not be burned? How can they pierce themselves with skewers and cut themselves with knives and no blood flow? But I told you the first day I met you; the desert always makes me the same gift when I return to it.”