“There is not very much to do here. Shall we ride back to the village now?”
She turned her horse, and as she did so cast one more glance at the three palm trees that stood far out on the path of the moon. They looked like three malignant fates lifting up their hands in malediction. For a moment she shivered in the saddle. Then she touched her horse with the whip and turned her eyes away. Androvsky followed her and rode by her side in silence.
To gain the oasis they passed near to the tents of the nomads, whose fires were dying out. The guard dogs were barking furiously, and straining at the cords which fastened them to the tent pegs, by the short hedges of brushwood that sheltered the doors of filthy rags. The Arabs were all within, no doubt huddled up on the ground asleep. One tent was pitched alone, at a considerable distance from the others, and under the first palms of the oasis. A fire smouldered before it, casting a flickering gleam of light upon something dark which lay upon the ground between it and the tent. Tied to the tent was a large white dog, which was not barking, but which was howling as if in agony of fear. Before Domini and Androvsky drew near to this tent the howling of the dog reached them and startled them. There was in it a note that seemed humanly expressive, as if it were a person trying to scream out words but unable to from horror. Both of them instinctively pulled up their horses, listened, then rode forward. When they reached the tent they saw the dark thing lying by the fire.
“What is it?” Domini whispered.
“An Arab asleep, I suppose,” Androvsky answered, staring at the motionless object.
“But the dog——” She looked at the white shape leaping frantically against the tent. “Are you sure?”
“It must be. Look, it is wrapped in rags and the head is covered.”
“I don’t know.”
She stared at it. The howling of the dog grew louder, as if it were straining every nerve to tell them something dreadful.
“Do you mind getting off and seeing what it is? I’ll hold the horse.”
He swung himself out of the saddle. She caught his rein and watched him go forward to the thing that lay by the fire, bend down over it, touch it, recoil from it, then—as if with a determined effort—kneel down beside it on the ground and take the rags that covered it in his hands. After a moment of contemplation of what they had hidden he dropped the rags—or rather threw them from him with a violent gesture—got up and came back to Domini, and looked at her without speaking. She bent down.
“I’ll tell you,” she said. “I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a dead woman.”
It seemed to her as if the dark thing lying by the fire was herself.
“Yes,” he said. “It’s a woman who has been strangled.”
“Poor woman!” she said. “Poor—poor woman!”
And it seemed to her as if she said it of herself.