“Only a few minutes, Madame.”
“I shall like to walk there.”
Suzanne collapsed. Her bones became as wax with apprehension. She saw herself toiling over leagues of sand towards some nameless hovel.
“Suzanne, you can get into the omnibus and take the handbags.”
At the sweet word omnibus a ray of hope stole into the maid’s heart, and when a nicely-dressed man, in a long blue coat and indubitable trousers, assisted her politely into a vehicle which was unmistakable she almost wept for joy.
Meanwhile Domini, escorted serenely by the poet, walked towards the long gardens of Beni-Mora. She passed over a wooden bridge. White dust was flying from the road, along which many of the Arab aristocracy were indolently strolling, carrying lightly in their hands small red roses or sprigs of pink geranium. In their white robes they looked, she thought, like monks, though the cigarettes many of them were smoking fought against the illusion. Some of them were dressed like Batouch in pale-coloured cloth. They held each other’s hands loosely as they sauntered along, chattering in soft contralto voices. Two or three were attended by servants, who walked a pace or two behind them on the left. These were members of great families, rulers of tribes, men who had influence over the Sahara people. One, a shortish man with a coal-black beard, moved so majestically that he seemed almost a giant. His face was very pale. On one of his small, almost white, hands glittered a diamond ring. A boy with a long, hooked nose strolled gravely near him, wearing brown kid gloves and a turban spangled with gold.
“That is the Kaid of Tonga, Madame,” whispered Batouch, looking at the pale man reverently. “He is here en permission.”
“How white he is.”
“They tried to poison him. Ever since he is ill inside. That is his brother. The brown gloves are very chic.”
A light carriage rolled rapidly by them in a white mist of dust. It was drawn by a pair of white mules, who whisked their long tails as they trotted briskly, urged on by a cracking whip. A big boy with heavy brown eyes was the coachman. By his side sat a very tall young negro with a humorous pointed nose, dressed in primrose yellow. He grinned at Batouch out of the mist, which accentuated the coal-black hue of his whimsical, happy face.
“That is the Agha’s son with Mabrouk.”
They turned aside from the road and came into a long tunnel formed by mimosa trees that met above a broad path. To right and left were other little paths branching among the trunks of fruit trees and the narrow twigs of many bushes that grew luxuriantly. Between sandy brown banks, carefully flattened and beaten hard by the spades of Arab gardeners, glided streams of opaque water that were guided from the desert by a system of dams. The Kaid’s mill watched over them and the great wall of the fort. In the tunnel the light was very delicate and tinged with