“Can one go into the desert at night?”
“On foot, Madame? It would be dangerous. One cannot tell what may be in the desert by night.”
These words made her long to go. They had a charm, a violence perhaps, of the unknown.
“One might ride,” she said. “Why not? Who could hurt us if we were mounted and armed?”
“Madame is brave as the panther in the forests of the Djurdjurah.”
“And you, Batouch? Aren’t you brave?”
“Madame, I am afraid of nothing.” He did not say it boastfully, like Hadj, but calmly, almost loftily.
“Well, we are neither of us afraid. Let us ride out on the Tombouctou road and see the moon rise. I’ll go and put on my habit.”
“Madame should take her revolver.”
“Of course. Bring the horses round at nine.”
When she had put on her habit it was only a few minutes after eight. She longed to be in the saddle, going at full speed up the long, white road between the palms. Physical movement was necessary to her, and she began to pace up and down the verandah quickly. She wished she had ordered the horses at once, or that she could do something definite to fill up the time till they came. As she turned at the end of the verandah she saw a white form approaching her; when it drew near she recognised Hadj, looking self-conscious and mischievous, but a little triumphant too. At this moment she was glad to see him. He received her congratulations on his recovery and approaching marriage with a sort of skittish gaiety, but she soon discovered that he had come with a money-making reason. Having seen his cousin safely off the premises, it had evidently occurred to him to turn an honest penny. And pennies were now specially needful to him in view of married life.
“Does Madame wish to see something strange and wonderful to-night?” he asked, after a moment, looking at her sideways out of the corners of his wicked eyes, which, as Domini could see, were swift to read character and mood.
“I am going out riding.”
He looked astonished.
“In the night?”
“Yes. Batouch has gone to fetch the horses.”
Hadj’s face became a mask of sulkiness.
“If Madame goes out with Batouch she will be killed. There are robbers in the desert, and Batouch is afraid of—”
“Could we see the strange and wonderful thing in an hour?” she interrupted.
The gay and skittish expression returned instantly to his face.
“What is it?”
He shook his head and made an artful gesture with his hand in the air.
“Madame shall see.”
His long eyes were full of mystery, and he moved towards the staircase.
Domini laughed and followed him. She felt as if she were playing a game, yet her curiosity was roused. They went softly down and slipped out of the hotel like children fearing to be caught.