At that moment the figure of Liberty, which she had seen in the shadows of the dancing-house, came in at the tent door and laid, for the first time, her lips on Domini’s. That kiss was surely the consecration of the life of the sands. But to-day there had been another consecration. Domini had a sudden impulse to link the two consecrations together.
She drew from her breast the wooden crucifix Androvsky had thrown into the stream at Sidi-Zerzour, and, softly going to one of the beds, she pinned the crucifix above it on the canvas of the tent. Then she turned and went out into the glory of the sunset to meet the fierce music that was rising from the desert.
Night had fallen over the desert, a clear purple night, starry but without a moon. Around the Bordj, and before a Cafe Maure built of brown earth and palm-wood, opposite to it, the Arabs who were halting to sleep at Arba on their journeys to and from Beni-Mora were huddled, sipping coffee, playing dominoes by the faint light of an oil lamp, smoking cigarettes and long pipes of keef. Within the court of the Bordj the mules were feeding tranquilly in rows. The camels roamed the plain among the tamarisk bushes, watched over by shrouded shadowy guardians sleepless as they were. The mountains, the palms of Beni-Mora, were lost in the darkness that lay over the desert.
On the low hill, at some distance beyond the white tent of Domini and Androvsky, the obscurity was lit up fiercely by the blaze of a huge fire of brushwood, the flames of which towered up towards the stars, flickering this way and that as the breeze took them, and casting a wild illumination upon the wild faces of the rejoicing desert men who were gathered about it, telling stories of the wastes, singing songs that were melancholy and remote to Western ears, even though they hymned past victories over the infidels, or passionate ecstasies of love in the golden regions of the sun. The steam from bowls of cous-cous and stews of mutton and vegetables curled up to join the thin smoke that made a light curtain about this fantasia, and from time to time, with a shrill cry of exultation, a half-naked form, all gleaming eyes and teeth and polished bronze-hued limbs, rushed out of the blackness beyond the fire, leaped through the tongues of flame and vanished like a spectre into the embrace of the night.
All the members of the caravan, presided over by Batouch in glory, were celebrating the wedding night of their master and mistress.
Domini and Androvsky had already visited them by their bonfire, had received their compliments, watched the sword dance and the dance of the clubs, touched with their lips, or pretended to touch, the stem of a keef, listened to a marriage song warbled by Ali to the accompaniment of a flute and little drums, and applauded Ouardi’s agility in leaping through the flames. Then, with many good-nights, pressures of the hand, and auguries for the morrow, they had gone away into the cool darkness, silently towards their tent.