“Men who are ready to show compassion and to succor friendless women!” interrupted Paula.
“And with good success, by the blessing of the Almighty,” replied the Arab. “As soon as I find a clue you shall hear from me; now, however, I must go across the Nile to see Amru the great general; I go in all confidence for I know that my poor, brave Rustem is in good hands, friend Philippus. My first enquiries shall be made in Fostat, rely upon that, my daughter.”
“I do indeed,” said Paula with pleased emotion. “When shall we meet again?”
“To-morrow, or the morning after at latest.”
The young girl went up to him and whispered: “We have just heard of a clue; indeed, I hope my messenger is already on his way. Have you time to hear about it now?”
“I ought long since to have been on the other shore; so not to-day, but to-morrow I hope.” The Arab shook hands with her and the physician, and hastily took his leave.
Paula stood still, thinking. Then it struck her that Hiram was now on the further side of the Nile, within the jurisdiction of the Arab ruler, and that the merchant could perhaps intercede for him, if she were to tell him all she knew. She felt the fullest confidence in the old man, whose kind and sympathetic face was still visible to her mind’s eye, and without paying any further heed to the physician she went quickly towards the door of the sick-room. A crucifix hung close by, and the nun had fallen on her knees before it, praying for her infidel patient, and beseeching the Good Shepherd to have mercy on the sheep that was not of His fold. Paula did not venture to disturb the worshipper, who was kneeling just in the narrow passage; so some minutes elapsed before the leech, observing her uneasiness, came out of the larger room, touched the nun on the shoulder, and said in a low voice of genuine kindness:
“One moment, good Sister. Your pious intercession will be heard—but this damsel is in haste.” The nun rose at once and made way, sending a wrathful glance after Paula as she hurried down the stairs.
At the door of the court-yard she looked out and about for the Arab, but in vain. Then she enquired of a slave who told her that the merchant’s horse had waited for him at the gate a long time, that he had just come galloping out, and by this time must have reached the bridge of boats which connected Memphis with the island of Rodah and, beyond the island, with the fort of Babylon and the new town of Fostat.
Paula went up-stairs again, distressed and vexed with herself. Was it the heat that had enervated her and robbed her of the presence of mind she usually had at her command? She herself could not understand how it was that she had not at once taken advantage of the opportunity to plead to Haschim for her faithful retainer. The merchant might have interested himself for Hiram.