If Philippus found no sleep that night, neither did Orion. He no longer doubted Paula, but his heart was full of longing to hear her say once more that she loved him and him alone, and the yearning kept him awake. He sprang from his bed at the first glimmer of dawn, glad that the night was past, and started to cross the Nile in order to place half of Paula’s fortune in the hands of Salech, the brother of Haschim the merchant.
In Memphis all was still silent, and all he saw in the old town struck him as strangely worn-out, torpid, and decayed; it seemed only fit to be left to ruin, while on the other side of the river, in the new town of Fostat, on all hands busy, eager, new-born vitality met his eyes.
He involuntarily compared the old capital of the Pharaohs to a time-eaten mummy, and Amru’s new city to a vigorous youth. Here every one was astir and in brisk activity. The money-changer, who had risen, like all Moslems, to perform his morning prayer, “as soon as a white thread could be distinguished from a black one,” was already busy with his rolls of gold and silver coin; and how quick, clear, and decisive the Arab was in concluding his bargain with Orion and with Nilus, who had accompanied him!
Whichever way the young man turned, bright and flashing eyes met his gaze, energetic, resolute, and enterprising faces; no bowed heads, no dull, brooding looks, no gloomy resignation like those in his native town on the other shore. Here, in Fostat, his blood flowed more swiftly; there, existence was an oppressive burden. Everything attracted him to the Arabs!
The changer’s shop, like all those in the Sook or Bazaar of Fostat, consisted of a wooden stall in which he sat with his assistants. On the side open to the street he transacted business with his customers, who, when the affair promised to be lengthy, were invited by the Arab to seat themselves with him on his little platform.
Orion and Nilus had accepted such an invitation, and it happened that, while they sat in treaty with Salech, visible to the passers-by, the Vekeel Obada, who had so deeply stirred the wrath of the governor’s son on the previous evening, came by, close to him. To Orion’s amazement he greeted him with great amiability, and he, remembering Amru’s warning, responded, though not without an effort, to his hated foe’s civility. When Obada passed the stall a second and a third time, Orion felt that he was watching him; however, it was quite possible that the Vekeel might also have business with the money-changer and be waiting only for the conclusion of his.
At any rate Orion ere long forgot the incident, for matters of more pressing importance claimed his attention at home.