The stranger was not at dinner. His table was laid and Domini sat expecting each moment to hear the shuffling tread of his heavy boots on the wooden floor. When he did not come she thought she was glad. After dinner she spoke for a moment to the priest and then went upstairs to the verandah to take coffee. She found Batouch there. He had renounced his determined air, and his cafe-au-lait countenance and huge body expressed enduring pathos, as of an injured, patient creature laid out for the trampling of Domini’s cruel feet.
“Well?” she said, sitting down by the basket table.
He sighed and looked on the ground, lifted one white-socked foot, removed its yellow slipper, shook out a tiny stone from the slipper and put it on again, slowly, gracefully and very sadly. Then he pulled the white sock up with both hands and glanced at Domini out of the corners of his eyes.
“What’s the matter?”
“Madame does not care to see the dances of Beni-Mora, to hear the music, to listen to the story-teller, to enter the cafe of El Hadj where Achmed sings to the keef smokers, or to witness the beautiful religious ecstasies of the dervishes from Oumach. Therefore I come to bid Madame respectfully goodnight and to take my departure.”
He threw his burnous over his left shoulder with a sudden gesture of despair that was full of exaggeration. Domini smiled.
“You’ve been very good to-day,” she said.
“I am always good, Madame. I am of a serious disposition. Not one keeps Ramadan as I do.”
“I am sure of it. Go downstairs and wait for me under the arcade.”
Batouch’s large face became suddenly a rendezvous of all the gaieties.
“Madame is coming out to-night?”
“Presently. Be in the arcade.”
He swept away with the ample magnificence of joyous bearing and movement that was like a loud Te Deum.
Domini had finished her coffee.
“Mam’zelle!” answered Suzanne, appearing.
“Would you like to come out with me to-night?”
“Mam’zelle is going out?”
“Yes, to see the village by night.”
Suzanne looked irresolute. Craven fear and curiosity fought a battle within her, as was evident by the expressions that came and went in her face before she answered.
“Shall we not be murdered, Mam’zelle, and are there interesting things to see?”
“There are interesting things to see—dancers, singers, keef smokers. But if you are afraid don’t come.”
“Dancers, Mam’zelle! But the Arabs carry knives. And is there singing? I—I should not like Mam’zelle to go without me. But——”
“Come and protect me from the knives then. Bring my jacket—any one. I don’t suppose I shall put it on.”
As she spoke the distant tomtoms began. Suzanne started nervously and looked at Domini with sincere apprehension.