“We had better not go, Mam’zelle. It is not safe out here. Men who make a noise like that would not respect us.”
“I like it.”
“That sound? But it is always the same and there is no music in it.”
“Perhaps there is more in it than music. The jacket?”
Suzanne went gingerly to fetch it. The faint cry of the African hautboy rose up above the tomtoms. The evening fete was beginning. To-night Domini felt that she must go to the distant music and learn to understand its meaning, not only for herself, but for those who made it and danced to it night after night. It stirred her imagination, and made her in love with mystery, and anxious at least to steal to the very threshold of the barbarous world. Did it stir those who had had it in their ears ever since they were naked, sunburned babies rolling in the hot sun of the Sahara? Could it seem as ordinary to them as the cold uproar of the piano-organ to the urchins of Whitechapel, or the whine of the fiddle to the peasants of Touraine where Suzanne was born? She wanted to know. Suzanne returned with the jacket. She still looked apprehensive, but she had put on her hat and fastened a sprig of red geranium in the front of her black gown. The curiosity was in the ascendant.
“We are not going quite alone, Mam’zelle?”
“No, no. Batouch will protect us.”
Suzanne breathed a furtive sigh.
The poet was in the white arcade with Hadj, who looked both wicked and deplorable, and had a shabby air, in marked contrast to Batouch’s ostentatious triumph. Domini felt quite sorry for him.
“You come with us too,” she said.
Hadj squared his shoulders and instantly looked vivacious and almost smart. But an undecided expression came into his face.
“Where is Madame going?”
“To see the village.”
Batouch shot a glance at Hadj and smiled unpleasantly.
“I will come with Madame.”
Batouch still smiled.
“We are going to the Ouled Nails,” he said significantly to Hadj.
“I—I will come.”
They set out. Suzanne looked gently at the poet’s legs and seemed comforted.
“Take great care of Mademoiselle Suzanne,” Domini said to the poet. “She is a little nervous in the dark.”
“Mademoiselle Suzanne is like the first day after the fast of Ramadan,” replied the poet, majestically. “No one would harm her were she to wander alone to Tombouctou.”
The prospect drew from Suzanne a startled gulp. Batouch placed himself tenderly at her side and they set out, Domini walking behind with Hadj.