As he heard this a sensation of loneliness came to the priest. His usually cheerful countenance was overcast with gloom. For a moment he loathed his fate in the sands and sighed for the fleshpots of civilisation. With his white umbrella spread above his helmet he stood still and gazed towards the north across the vast spaces that were lemon-yellow in the sunset. He fancied that on the horizon he saw faintly a cloud of sand grains whirling, and imagined it stirred up by the strangers’ caravan. Then he thought of the rich lands of the Tell, of the olive groves of Tunis, of the blue Mediterranean, of France, his country which he had not seen for many years. He sighed profoundly.
“Happy people,” he thought to himself. “Rich, free, able to do as they like, to go where they will! Why was I born to live in the sand and to be alone?”
He was moved by envy. But then he remembered his intercourse with Androvsky on the previous day.
“After all,” he thought more comfortably, “he did not look a happy man!” And he took himself to task for his sin of envy, and strolled to the inn by the fountain where he paid his pension.
The same day, in the house of the marabout of Beni-Hassan, Count Anteoni received a letter brought from Amara by an Arab. It was as follows:
“MY DEAR FRIEND: Good-bye. We are just leaving. I had expected to be here longer, but we must go. We are returning to the north and shall not penetrate farther into the desert. I shall think of you, and of your journey on among the people of your faith. You said to me, when we sat in the tent door, that now you could pray in the desert. Pray in the desert for us. And one thing more. If you never return to Beni-Mora, and your garden is to pass into other hands, don’t let it go into the hands of a stranger. I could not bear that. Let it come to me. At any price you name. Forgive me for writing thus. Perhaps you will return, or perhaps, even if you do not, you will keep your garden.—Your Friend, DOMINI.”
In a postscript was an address which would always find her.
Count Anteoni read this letter two or three times carefully, with a grave face.
“Why did she not put Domini Androvsky?” he said to himself. He locked the letter in a drawer. All that night he was haunted by thoughts of the garden. Again and again it seemed to him that he stood with Domini beside the white wall and saw, in the burning distance of the desert, at the call of the Mueddin, the Arabs bowing themselves in prayer, and the man—the man to whom now she had bound herself by the most holy tie—fleeing from prayer as if in horror.
“But it was written,” he murmured to himself. “It was written in the sand and in fire: ‘The fate of every man have we bound about his neck.’”
In the dawn when, turning towards the rising sun, he prayed, he remembered Domini and her words: “Pray in the desert for us.” And in the Garden of Allah he prayed to Allah for her, and for Androvsky.