“The greatest act of man is the act of renunciation.” She had just heard those words. The eyes of the priest had flamed as he spoke them, and she had caught the spark of his enthusiasm. But now another fire seemed lit within her, and she found herself marvelling at such austerity. Was it not a fanatical defiance flung into the face of the sun? She shrank from her own thought, like one startled, and walked on softly in the green darkness.
Larbi’s flute became more distant. Again and again it repeated the same queer little melody, changing the ornamentation at the fantasy of the player. She looked for him among the trees but saw no one. He must be in some very secret place. Smain touched her.
“Look!” he said, and his voice was very low.
He parted the branches of some palms with his delicate hands, and Domini, peering between them, saw in a place of deep shadows an isolated square room, whose white walls were almost entirely concealed by masses of purple bougainvillea. It had a flat roof. In three of its sides were large arched window-spaces without windows. In the fourth was a narrow doorway without a door. Immense fig trees and palms and thickets of bamboo towered around it and leaned above it. And it was circled by a narrow riband of finely-raked sand.
“That is the smoking-room of Monsieur the Count,” said Smain. “He spends many hours there. Come and I will show the inside to Madame.”
They turned to the left and went towards the room. The flute was close to them now. “Larbi must be in there,” Domini whispered to Smain, as a person whispers in a church.
“No, he is among the trees beyond.”
“But someone is there.”
She pointed to the arched window-space nearest to them. A thin spiral of blue-grey smoke curled through it and evaporated into the shadows of the trees. After a moment it was followed gently and deliberately by another.