Denzil kept his eyes fixed studiously on the table-cloth and made no answer.
“However,” continued the Doctor complacently, “you can have it all your own way as far as I am concerned. I never interfere in these sort of matters. I should do no good if I attempted it. Besides, I haven’t the slightest anxiety on your behalf—not the slightest. Waiter, some more coffee, please?”
“Upon my word!” exclaimed Denzil, with a fretful laugh, “you are a most extraordinary man, Doctor!”
“I hope I am!” retorted the Doctor. “To be merely ordinary would not suit my line of ambition. This is very excellent coffee”—here he peered into the fresh pot of the fragrant beverage just set before him. “They make it better here than at the Gezireh Palace. Well, Denzil, my boy, when you get into Cairo, give my love to Helen and tell her we’ll all go home to the old country together; I, myself, have got quite enough out of Egypt this time to satisfy my fondness for new experiences. And let me assure you, my good fellow, that your proposed duel with Gervase will not come off!”
“It will come off!” said Denzil, with sudden fierceness. “By Heaven, it shall!—it must!”
“More wills than one have the working out of our destinies,” answered Dr. Dean with some gravity. “Man is not by any means supreme. He imagines he is, but that is only one of his many little delusions. You think you will have your way; Gervase thinks he will have his way; I think I will have my way; but as a matter of fact there is only one person in this affair whose ‘way’ will be absolute, and that person is the Princess Ziska. Ce que femme veut Dieu veut.”
“She has nothing whatever to do with the matter,” declared Denzil.
“Pardon! She has everything to do with it. She is the cause of it and she knows it. And as I have already told you, your proposed fight will not come off.” And the little Doctor smiled serenely. “There is your carriage at the door, I suppose. Off with you, my boy!—be off like a whirlwind, and return here armed to the teeth if you like! You have heard the expression ‘fighting the air’? That is what you will do tomorrow morning!”
And apparently in the best of all possible humors, Dr. Dean accompanied his young friend to the portico of the hotel and watched him drive off down the stately avenue of palm-trees which now cast their refreshing shade on the entire route from the Pyramids to Cairo. When he had fairly gone, the thoughtful savant surveyed the different tourists who were preparing to ascend the Pyramids under the escort of their Arab guides, regardless of the risks they ran of dislocated arms and broken shoulder-bones,—and in the study of the various odd types thus presented to him, he found himself fairly well amused.