“Parbleu! So am I,” said Gervase imperturbably; “it seems a pity.”
“He will get over it,” interposed Dr. Dean placidly. “It’s an illness,—like typhoid,—we must do all we can to keep down the temperature of the patient, and we shall pull him through.”
“Keep him cool, in short!” laughed Gervase.
“Exactly!” The little Doctor smiled shrewdly. “You look feverish, Monsieur Gervase.”
Gervase flushed red under his dark skin.
“I daresay I am feverish,” he replied irritably,—“I find this place hot as an oven. I think I should go away to-morrow if I had not asked the Princess Ziska to sit to me.”
“You are going to paint her picture?” exclaimed Courtney. “By Jove! I congratulate you. It will be the masterpiece of the next salon”
“You flatter me! The Princess is undoubtedly an attractive subject. But, as I said before, this place stifles me. I think the hotel is too near the river,—there is an oozy smell from the Nile that I hate, and the heat is perfectly sulphureous. Don’t you find it so, Doctor?”
“N-n-o! I cannot say that I do. Let me feel your pulse; I am not a medical man—but I can easily recognize any premonitions of illness.”
Gervase held out his long, brown, well-shaped hand, and the savant’s small, cool fingers pressed lightly on his wrist.
“You are quite well, Monsieur Gervase,” he said after a pause,— “You have a little sur-excitation of the nerves, certainly,—but it is not curable by medicine.” He dropped the hand he held, and looked up—“Good-night!”
“Good-night!” responded Gervase.
“Good-night!” added Courtney.
And with an amiable salutation the Doctor went his way. The ball-room was now quite deserted, and the hotel servants were extinguishing the lights.
“A curious little man, that Doctor,” observed Gervase, addressing Courtney, to whom as yet he had not been formally introduced.
“Very curious!” was the reply, “I have known him for some years,— he is a very clever man, but I have never been able quite to make him out. I think he is a bit eccentric. He’s just been telling me he believes in ghosts.”
“Ah, poor fellow!” and Gervase yawned as, with his companion, he crossed the deserted ball-room. “Then he has what you call a screw loose. I suppose it is that which makes him interesting. Good-night!”
And separating, they went their several ways to the small, cell-like bedrooms, which are the prime discomfort of the Gezireh Palace Hotel, and soon a great silence reigned throughout the building. All Cairo slept,—save where at an open lattice window the moon shone full on a face up-turned to her silver radiance,— the white, watchful face, and dark, sleepless eyes of the Princess Ziska.