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When Donovan Pasha discovered the facts for the first time, he found more
difficulty in keeping the thing to himself than he had ever found with
any other matter in Egypt. He had unearthed one of those paradoxes which
make for laughter--and for tears. It gave him both; he laughed till he
cried. Then he went to the Khedivial Club and ordered himself four
courses, a pint of champagne and a glass of '48 port, his usual dinner
being one course, double portion, and a pint of claret. As he sat eating
he kept reading a letter over and over, and each time he read he
grinned--he did not smile like a well-behaved man of the world, he did
not giggle like a well-veneered Egyptian back from Paris, he chuckled
like a cabman responding to a liberal fare and a good joke. A more
unconventional little man never lived. Simplicity was his very life, and
yet he had a gift for following the sinuosities of the Oriental mind; he
had a quality almost clairvoyant, which came, perhaps, from his Irish
forebears. The cross-strain of English blood had done him good too; it
made him punctilious and kept his impulses within secure bounds. It also
made him very polite when he was angry, and very angry when any one tried
to impose upon him, or flatter him.
The letter he read so often was from Kingsley Bey, the Englishman, who,
coming to Egypt penniless, and leaving estates behind him encumbered
beyond release, as it would seem, had made a fortune and a name in a
curious way. For years he had done no good for himself, trying his hand
at many things--sugar, salt, cotton, cattle, but always just failing to
succeed, though he came out of his enterprises owing no one. Yet he had
held to his belief that he would make a fortune, and he allowed his
estates to become still more encumbered, against the advice of his
solicitors, who grew more irritable as interest increased and rents
further declined. The only European in Egypt who shared his own belief in
himself was Dicky Donovan. Something in the unfailing good-humour, the
buoyant energy, the wide imagination of the man seized Dicky, warranted
the conviction that he would yet make a success. There were reasons why
sugar, salt, cotton, cattle and other things had not done well. Taxes,
the corvee, undue influence in favour of pashas who could put his water
on their land without compensation, or unearthed old unpaid mortgages on
his land, or absorbed his special salt concession in the Government
monopoly, or suddenly put a tax on all horses and cattle not of native
breed; all these and various other imposts, exactions, or interferences
engineered by the wily Mamour, the agent of the mouffetish, or the
intriguing Pasha, killed his efforts, in spite of labours unbelievable.
The venture before the last had been sugar, and when he arrived in Cairo,
having seen his fields and factories absorbed in the Khedive's domains,
he had but one ten pounds to his name.
He went to Dicky Donovan and asked the loan of a thousand pounds. It took
Dicky's breath away. His own banking account seldom saw a
thousand--deposit. Dicky told Kingsley he hadn't got it. Kingsley asked
him to get it--he had credit, could borrow it from the bank, from the
Khedive himself! The proposal was audacious--Kingsley could offer no
security worth having. His enthusiasm and courage were so infectious,
however, though his ventures had been so fruitless, that Dicky laughed in
his face. Kingsley's manner then suddenly changed, and he assured Dicky
that he would receive five thousand pounds for the thousand within a
year. Now, Dicky knew that Kingsley never made a promise to any one that
he did not fulfil. He gave Kingsley the thousand pounds. He did more. He
went to the Khedive with Kingsley's whole case. He spoke as he had seldom
spoken, and he secured a bond from Ismail, which might not be broken. He
also secured three thousand pounds of the Khedive's borrowings from
Europe, on Kingsley's promise that it should be returned five-fold.
That was how Kingsley got started in the world again, how he went mining
in the desert afar, where pashas and mamours could not worry him. The
secret of his success was purely Oriental. He became a slave-owner. He
built up a city of the desert round him. He was its ruler. Slavery gave
him steady untaxed labour. A rifle-magazine gave him security against
marauding tribes, his caravans were never over powered; his blacks were
his own. He had a way with them; they thought him the greatest man in the
world. Now, at last, he was rich enough. His mines were worked out, too,
and the market was not so good; he had supplied it too well. Dicky's
thousand had brought him five thousand, and Ismail's three thousand had
become fifteen thousand, and another twenty thousand besides. For once
the Khedive had found a kind of taxation, of which he got the whole
proceeds, not divided among many as heretofore. He got it all. He made
Kingsley a Bey, and gave him immunity from all other imposts or taxation.
Nothing but an Egyptian army could have removed him from his desert-city.
Now, he was coming back--to-night at ten o'clock he would appear at the
Khedivial Club, the first time in seven years. But this was not all. He
was coming back to be married as soon as might be.
This was the thing which convulsed Dicky.
Upon the Nile at Assiout lived a young English lady whose life was
devoted to agitation against slavery in Egypt. Perhaps the Civil War in
America, not so many years before, had fired her spirit; perhaps it was
pious enthusiasm; perhaps it was some altruistic sentiment in her which
must find expression; perhaps, as people said, she had had a love affair
in England which had turned out badly. At any rate she had come over to
Egypt with an elderly companion, and, after a short stay at the
Consulate, had begun the career of the evangel. She had now and then
created international difficulty, and Ismail, tolerant enough, had been
tempted to compel her to leave the country, but, with a zeal which took
on an aspect of self-opinionated audacity, she had kept on. Perhaps her
beauty helped her on her course--perhaps the fact that her superb egotism
kept her from being timorous, made her career possible. In any case,
there she was at Assiout, and there she had been for years, and no
accident had come to her; and, during the three months she was at Cairo
every year, pleading against slavery and the corvee, she increased
steadily the respect in which she was held; but she was considered mad as
Gordon. So delighted had Ismail been by a quiet, personal attack she made
upon him, that without malice, and with an obtuse and impulsive kindness,
he sent her the next morning a young Circassian slave, as a mark of his
esteem, begging her through the swelling rhetoric of his messenger to
keep the girl, and more than hinting at her value. It stupefied her, and
the laughter of Cairo added to her momentary embarrassment; but she kept
the girl, and prepared to send her back to her people.
The girl said she had no people, and would not go; she would stay with
"My Lady"--she would stay for ever with "My Lady." It was confusing, but
the girl stayed, worshipping the ground "My Lady" walked on. In vain My
Lady educated her. Out of hearing, she proudly told whoever would listen
that she was "My Lady's slave." It was an Egyptian paradox; it was in
line with everything else in the country, part of the moral opera boufe.
In due course, the lady came to hear of the English slave-owner, who
ruled the desert-city and was making a great fortune out of the labours
of his slaves. The desert Arabs who came down the long caravan road,
white with bleached bones, to Assiout, told her he had a thousand slaves.
Against this Englishman her anger, was great. She unceasingly condemned
him, and whenever she met Dicky Donovan she delivered her attack with
delicate violence. Did Dicky know him? Why did not he, in favour with
Ismail, and with great influence, stop this dreadful and humiliating
business? It was a disgrace to the English name. How could we preach
freedom and a higher civilisation to the Egyptians while an Englishman
enriched himself and ruled a province by slavery? Dicky's invariable
reply was that we couldn't, and that things weren't moving very much
towards a higher civilisation in Egypt. But he asked her if she ever
heard of a slave running away from Kingsley Bey, or had she ever heard of
a case of cruelty on his part? Her reply was that he had given slaves the
kourbash, and had even shot them. Dicky thereupon suggested that Kingsley
Bey was a government, and that the kourbash was not yet abolished in the
English navy, for instance; also that men had to be shot sometimes.
At last she had made a direct appeal to Kingsley Bey. She sent an embassy
to him--Dicky prevented her from going herself; he said he would have her
deported straightway, if she attempted it. She was not in such deadly
earnest that she did not know he would keep his word, and that the
Consulate could not help her would have no time to do so. So, she
confined herself to an elaborate letter, written in admirable English and
inspired by most noble sentiments. The beauty that was in her face was in
her letter in even a greater degree. It was very adroit, too, very ably
argued, and the moral appeal was delicate and touching, put with an
eloquence at once direct and arresting. The invocation with which the
letter ended was, as Kingsley Bey afterwards put it, "a pitch of poetry
and humanity never reached except by a Wagner opera."
Kingsley Bey's response to the appeal was a letter to the lady, brought
by a sarraf, a mamour and six slaves, beautifully mounted and armed,
saying that he had been deeply moved by her appeal, and as a proof of the
effect of her letter, she might free the six slaves of his embassy. This
she straightway did joyfully, and when they said they wished to go to
Cairo, she saw them and their horses off on the boat with gladness, and
she shook them each by the hand and prayed Heaven in their language to
give them long plumes of life and happiness. Arrived at Cairo these
freemen of Assiout did as they had been ordered by Kingsley--found
Donovan Pasha, delivered a certain letter to him, and then proceeded,
also as they had been ordered, to a certain place in the city, even to
Ismail's stables, to await their master's coming.
This letter was now in Dicky's hand, and his mirth was caused by the
statement that Kingsley Bey had declared that he was coming to marry My
Lady--she really was "My Lady," the Lady May Harley; that he was coming
by a different route from "his niggers," and would be there the same day.
Dicky would find him at ten o'clock at the Khedivial Club.
My Lady hated slavery--and unconsciously she kept a slave; she regarded
Kingsley Bey as an enemy to civilisation and to Egypt, she detested him
as strongly as an idealistic nature could and should--and he had set out
to marry her, the woman who had bitterly arraigned him at the bar of her
judgment. All this play was in Dicky's hands for himself to enjoy, in a
perfect dress rehearsal ere ever one of the Cairene public or the English
world could pay for admission and take their seats. Dicky had in more
senses than one got his money's worth out of Kingsley Bey. He wished he
might let the Khedive into the secret at once, for he had an opinion of
Ismail's sense of humour; had he not said that very day in the presence
of the French Consul, "Shut the window, quick! If the consul sneezes,
France will demand compensation!" But Dicky was satisfied that things
should be as they were. He looked at the clock--it was five minutes to
ten. He rose from the table, and went to the smoking-room. In vain it was
sought to draw him into the friendly circles of gossiping idlers and
officials. He took a chair at the very end of the room and opposite the
door, and waited, watching.
Precisely at ten the door opened and a tall, thin, loose-knit figure
entered. He glanced quickly round, saw Dicky, and swung down the room,
nodding to men who sprang to their feet to greet him. Some of the
Egyptians looked darkly at him, but he smiled all round, caught at one or
two hands thrust out to him, said: "Business--business first!" in a deep
bass voice, and, hastening on, seized both of Dicky's hands in his, then
his shoulders, and almost roared: "Well, what do you think of it? Isn't
it all right? Am I, or am I not, Dicky Pasha?"
"You very much are," answered Dicky, thrust a cigar at him, and set him
down in the deepest chair he could find. He sprawled wide, and lighted
his cigar, then lay back and looked down his long nose at his friend.
"I mean it, too," he said after a minute, and reached for a glass of
water the waiter brought. "No, thanks, no whiskey--never touch it--good
example to the slaves!" He laughed long and low, and looked at Dicky out
of the corner of his eye. "Good-looking lot I sent you, eh?"
"Oosters, every one of 'em. Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. I
learnt their grin, it suits my style of beauty." Dicky fitted the action
to the word. "You'll start with me in the morning to Assiout?"
"I can start, but life and time are short."
"You think I can't and won't marry her?"
"This isn't the day of Lochinvar."
"This is the day of Kingsley Bey, Dicky Pasha."
Dicky frowned. He had a rare and fine sense where women were concerned,
were they absent or present. "How very artless--and in so short a time,
too!" he said tartly.
Kingsley laughed quietly. "Art is long, but tempers are short!" he
Dicky liked a Roland for his Oliver. "It's good to see you back again,"
he said, changing the subject.
"How long do you mean to stay?"
"Here?" Dicky nodded. "Till I'm married."
Dicky became very quiet, a little formal, and his voice took on a curious
smoothness, through which sharp suggestion pierced.
"So long?--Enter our Kingsley Bey into the underground Levantine world."
This was biting enough. To be swallowed up by Cairo life and all that it
involves, was no fate to suggest to an Englishman, whose opinion of the
Levantine needs no defining. "Try again, Dicky," said Kingsley, refusing
to be drawn. "This is not one huge joke, or one vast impertinence, so far
as the lady is concerned. I've come back-b-a-c-k" (he spelled the word
out), "with all that it involves. I've come back, Dicky."
He quieted all at once, and leaned over towards his friend. "You know the
fight I've had. You know the life I've lived in Egypt. You know what I
left behind me in England--nearly all. You've seen the white man
work. You've seen the black ooster save him. You've seen the
ten-times-a-failure pull out. Have I played the game? Have I acted
squarely? Have I given kindness for kindness, blow for blow? Have I
treated my slaves like human beings? Have I--have I won my way back to
life--life?" He spread out a hand with a little grasping motion. "Have I
saved the old stand off there in Cumberland by the sea, where you can see
the snow on Skaw Fell? Have I? Do you wonder that I laugh? Ye gods and
little fishes! I've had to wear a long face years enough--seven hard
years, seven fearful years, when I might be murdered by a slave, and I
and my slaves might be murdered by some stray brigade, under some general
of Ismail's, working without orders, without orders, of course--oh, very
much of course! Why shouldn't I play the boy to-day, little Dicky
Donovan? I am a Mahommedan come Christian again. I am a navvy again come
gentleman. I am an Arab come Englishman once more.
"I am an outcast come home. I am a dead man come to life."
Dicky leaned over and laid a hand on his knee. "You are a credit to
Cumberland," he said. "No other man could have done it. I won't ask any
more questions. Anything you want of me, I am with you, to do, or say, or
"Good. I want you to go to Assiout to-morrow."
"Will you see Ismail first? It might be safer--good policy."
"I will see My Lady first. . . . Trust me. I know what I'm doing. You
will laugh as I do." Laughter broke from his lips. It was as though his
heart was ten years old. Dicky's eyes moistened. He had never seen
anything like it--such happiness, such boyish confidence. And what had
not this man experienced! How had he drunk misfortune to the dregs! What
unbelievable optimism had been his! How had he been at once hard and
kind, tyrannical and human, defiant and peaceful, daring yet submissive,
fierce yet just! And now, here, with so much done, with a great fortune
and great power, a very boy, he was planning to win the heart of, and
marry, his avowed foe, the woman who had condemned him without stint.
On her wide veranda, a stone's-throw from the banks of the Nile, My Lady
sat pen in hand and paper-pad upon her knee. She had written steadily for
an hour, and now she raised her head to look out on the swift-flowing,
muddy water, where broad khiassas floated down the stream, laden with
bersim; where feluccas covered the river, bearing natives and donkeys;
where faithful Moslems performed their ablutions, and other faithful
Moslems, their sandals laid aside, said their prayers with their faces
towards Mecca, oblivious of all around; where blue-robed women filled
their goolahs with water, and bore them away, steady and stately; where a
gang of conscripts, chained ankle to ankle, followed by a crowd of
weeping and wailing women, were being driven to the anchorage of the
stern-wheeled transport-steamer. All these sights she had seen how many
hundred times! To her it was all slavery. The laden khiassas represented
the fruits of enforced labour; the ablutions and prayers were but signs
of submission to the tyranny of a religion designed for the benefit of
the few at the expense of the many, a creed and code of gross
selfishness--were not women only admitted to Heaven by the intercession
of their husbands and after unceasing prayer? Whether beasts of burden,
the girl with the goolah, women in the harem, or servants of pleasure,
they were all in the bonds of slavery, and the land was in moral
darkness. So it seemed to her.
How many times had she written these things in different forms and to
different people--so often, too often, to the British Consul at Cairo,
whose patience waned. At first, the seizure of conscripts, with all that
it involved, had excited her greatly. It had required all her
common-sense to prevent her, then and there, protesting, pleading, with
the kavass, who did the duty of Ismail's Sirdar. She had confined
herself, however, to asking for permission to give the men cigarettes and
slippers, dates and bread, and bags of lentils for soup. Even this was
not unaccompanied by danger, for the Mahommedan mind could not at first
tolerate the idea of a lady going unveiled; only fellah women, domestic
cattle, bared their faces to the world. The conscripts, too, going to
their death--for how few of them ever returned?--leaving behind all hope,
all freedom, passing to starvation and cruelty, at last to be cut down by
the Arab, or left dying of illness in the desert, they took her gifts
with sullen faces. Her beautiful freedom was in such contrast to their
torture, slavery of a direful kind. But as again and again the kavasses
came and opened midnight doors and snatched away the young men, her
influence had grown so fast that her presence brought comfort, and she
helped to assuage the grief of the wailing women. She even urged upon
them that philosophy of their own, which said "Malaish" to all
things--the "It is no matter," of the fated Hamlet. In time she began to
be grateful that an apathetic resignation, akin to the quiet of despair,
was the possession of their race. She was far from aware that something
in their life, of their philosophy, was affecting her understanding. She
had a strong brain and a stronger will, but she had a capacity for
feeling greater still, and this gave her imagination, temperament,
and--though it would have shocked her to know it--a certain credulity,
easily transmutable into superstition. Yet, as her sympathies were, to
some extent, rationalised by stern fact and everlasting custom, her
opposition to some things became more active and more fervid.
Looking into the distance, she saw two or three hundred men at work on a
canal, draining the property of Selamlik Pasha, whose tyrannies,
robberies, and intrigues were familiar to all Egypt, whose palaces were
almost as many as those of the notorious Mouffetish. These men she saw
now working in the dread corvee had been forced from their homes by a
counterfeit Khedivial order. They had been compelled to bring their own
tools, and to feed and clothe and house themselves, without pay or
reward, having left behind them their own fields untilled, their own
dourha unreaped, their date-palms, which the tax-gatherer confiscated.
Many and many a time--unless she was prevented, and this at first had
been often--she had sent food and blankets to these poor creatures who,
their day's work done, prayed to God as became good Mahommedans, and,
without covering, stretched themselves out on the bare ground to sleep.
It suggested that other slavery, which did not hide itself under the
forms of conscription and corvee. It was on this slavery her mind had
been concentrated, and against it she had turned her energies and her
life. As she now sat, pen in hand, the thought of how little she had
done, how futile had been all her crusade, came to her. Yet there was,
too, a look of triumph in her eyes. Until three days ago she had seen
little result from her labours. Then had come a promise of better things.
From the Englishman, against whom she had inveighed, had been sent an
olive branch, a token--of conversion? Had he not sent six slaves for her
to free, and had she not freed them? That was a step. She pictured to
herself this harsh expatriated adventurer, this desert ruler, this
slave-holder--had he been a slave-dealer she could herself have gladly
been his executioner--surrounded by his black serfs, receiving her
letter. In her mind's eye she saw his face flush as he read her burning
phrases, then turn a little pale, then grow stern.
She saw him, after a sleepless night, haunted by her warnings, her appeal
to his English manhood. She saw him rise, meditative and relenting, and
send forthwith these slaves for her to free. Her eye glistened again, as
it had shone while she had written of this thing to the British Consul at
Cairo, to her father in England, who approved of her sympathies and
lamented her actions. Had her crusade been altogether fruitless, she
asked herself. Ismail's freed Circassian was in her household, being
educated like an English girl, lifted out of her former degradation, made
to understand "a higher life"; and yesterday she had sent away six
liberated slaves, with a gold-piece each, as a gift from a free woman to
free men. It seemed to her for a moment now, as she sat musing and
looking, that her thirty years of life had not been--rather, might not
There was one other letter she would write--to Donovan Pasha, who had not
been ardent in her cause, yet who might have done so much through his
influence with Ismail, who, it was said, liked him better than any
Englishman he had known, save Gordon. True, Donovan Pasha had steadily
worked for the reduction of the corvee, and had, in the name of the
Khedive, steadily reduced private corvee, but he had never set his face
against slavery, save to see that no slave-dealing was permitted below
Assouan. Yet, with her own eyes she had seen Abyssinian slaves sold in
the market-place of Assiout. True, when she appealed to him, Donovan
Pasha had seen to it that the slave-dealers were severely punished, but
the fact remained that he was unsympathetic on the large issue. When
appealed to, the British Consul had petulantly told her that Donovan
Pasha was doing more important work. Yet she could only think of England
as the engine of civilisation, as an evangelising power, as the John the
Baptist of the nations--a country with a mission. For so beautiful a
woman, of so worldly a stock, of a society so in the front of things, she
had some Philistine notions, some quite middle-class ideals. It was like
a duchess taking to Exeter Hall; but few duchesses so afflicted had been
so beautiful and so young, so much of the worldly world--her father was
high in the household of an illustrious person. . . . If she could but
make any headway against slavery--she had as disciples ten Armenian
pashas, several wealthy Copts, a number of Arab sheikhs, and three
Egyptian princes, sympathetic rather than active--perhaps, through her
father, she might be able to move the illustrious person, and so, in
time, the Government of England.
It was a delightful dream--the best she had imagined for many a day. She
was roused from it by the scream of a whistle, and the hoonch-hoonch of a
sternwheel steamer. A Government boat was hastening in to the bank,
almost opposite her house. She picked up the field-glass from the
window-sill behind her, and swept the deck of the steamer. There were two
figures in English dress, though one wore the tarboosh. The figure
shorter and smaller than the other she recognised. This was Donovan
Pasha. She need not write her letter to him, then. He would be sure to
visit her. Disapprove of him as she did from one stand-point, he always
excited in her feelings of homesickness, of an old life, full of
interests--music, drama, art, politics, diplomacy, the court, the
hunting-field, the quiet house-party. He troubled her in a way too, for
his sane certainty, set against her aspiring credulity, arrested, even
commanded, her sometimes.
Instinctively she put out her hand to gather in flying threads of hair,
she felt at the pearl fastening of her collar, she looked at her brown
shoes and her dress, and was satisfied. She was spotless. And never had
her face shone--really shone--to such advantage. It had not now the
brilliant colours of the first years. The climate, her work in hospital
building, her labours against slavery, had touched her with a little
whiteness. She was none the less good to see.
Who was this striding along with Donovan Pasha, straight towards her
house? No one she had ever seen in Egypt, and yet in manner like some one
she had seen before--a long time before. Her mind flashed back through
the years to the time when she was a girl, and visited old friends of her
father in a castle looking towards Skaw Fell, above the long valley of
the Nidd. A kind of mist came before her eyes now.
When she really saw again, they were at the steps of the veranda, and
Donovan Pasha's voice was greeting her. Then, as, without a word but with
a welcoming smile, she shook hands with Dicky, her look was held, first
by a blank arrest of memory, then by surprise.
Dicky turned for his office of introduction but was stayed by the look of
amusement in his friend's face, and by the amazed recognition in that of
My Lady. He stepped back with an exclamation, partly of chagrin. He saw
that this recognition was no coincidence, so far as the man was
concerned, though the woman had been surprised in a double sense. He
resented the fact that Kingsley Bey had kept this from him--he had the
weakness of small-statured men and of diplomatic people who have
reputations for knowing and doing. The man, all smiling, held out his
hand, and his look was quizzically humorous as he said:
"You scarcely looked to see me here, Lady May?" Her voice trembled with
pleasure. "No, of course. When did you come, Lord Selden? . . . Won't you
That high green terrace of Cumberland, the mist on Skaw Fell, the sun out
over the sea, they were in her eyes. So much water had gone under the
"I was such a young girl then--in short frocks--it was a long time ago, I
fear," she added, as if in continuation of the thought flashing through
her mind. "Let me see," she went on fearlessly; "I am thirty; that was
thirteen years ago."
"I am thirty-seven, and still it is thirteen years ago."
"You look older, when you don't smile," she added, and glanced at his
He laughed now. She was far, far franker than she was those many years
ago, and it was very agreeable and refreshing. "Donovan, there, reproved
me last night for frivolity," he said.
"If Donovan Pasha has become grave, then there is hope for Egypt," she
said, turning to Dicky with a new brightness.
"When there's hope for Egypt, I'll have lost my situation, and there'll
be reason for drawing a long face," said Dicky, and got the two at such
an angle that he could watch them to advantage. "I thrive while it's
opera boufe. Give us the legitimate drama, and I go with Ismail."
The lady shrank a little. "If it weren't you, Donovan Pasha, I should say
that, associated with Ismail, as you are, you are as criminal as he."
"What is crime in one country, is virtue in another," answered Dicky. "I
clamp the wheel sometimes to keep it from spinning too fast. That's my
only duty. I am neither Don Quixote nor Alexander Imperator."
She thought he was referring obliquely to the corvee and the other thing
in which her life-work was involved. She became severe. "It is
compromising with evil," she said.
"No. It's getting a breakfast-roll instead of the whole bakery," he
"What do you think?" she exclaimed, turning to Kingsley.
"I think there's one man in Egypt who keeps the boiler from bursting," he
"Oh, don't think I undervalue his Excellency here," she said with a
little laugh. "It is because he is strong, because he matters so much,
that one feels he could do more. Ismail thinks there is no one like him
in the world."
"Except Gordon," interrupted Kingsley.
"Except Gordon, of course; only Gordon isn't in Egypt. And he would do no
good in Egypt. The officials would block his way. It is only in the
Soudan that he could have a free hand, be of real use. There, a man, a
real man, like Gordon, could show the world how civilisation can be
accepted by desert races, despite a crude and cruel religion and low
standards of morality."
"All races have their social codes--what they call civilisation,"
rejoined Kingsley. "It takes a long time to get custom out of the blood,
especially when it is part of the religion. I'm afraid that expediency
isn't the motto of those who try to civilise the Orient and the East."
"I believe in struggling openly for principle," she observed a little
"Have you succeeded?" he asked, trying to keep his gravity. "How about
your own household, for instance? Have you Christianised and civilised
your people--your niggers, and the others?"
She flushed indignantly, but held herself in control. She rang a bell. "I
have no 'niggers,'" she answered quietly. "I have some Berberine
servants, two fellah boatmen, an Egyptian gardener, an Arab cook, and a
Circassian maid. They are, I think, devoted to me."
A Berberine servant appeared. "Tea, Mahommed," she said. "And tell Madame
that Donovan Pasha is here. My cousin admires his Excellency so much,"
she added to Kingsley, laughing. "I have never had any real trouble with
them," she continued with a little gesture of pride towards the
"There was the Armenian," put in Dicky slyly; "and the Copt sarraf. They
were no credit to their Christian religion, were they?"
"That was not the fault of the religion, but of the generations of
oppression--they lie as a child lies, to escape consequences. Had they
not been oppressed they would have been good Christians in practice as in
"They don't steal as a child steals," laughed Dicky.
"Armenians are Oriental through and through. They no more understand the
Christian religion than the Soudanese understand freedom."
He touched the right note this time. Kingsley flashed a half-startled,
half-humorous look at him; the face of the lady became set, her manner
delicately frigid. She was about to make a quiet, severe reply, but
something overcame her, and her eyes, her face, suddenly glowed. She
leaned forward, her hands clasped tightly on her knees--Kingsley could
not but note how beautiful and brown they were, capable, handsome,
confident hands--and, in a voice thrilling with feeling, said:
"What is there in the life here that gets into the eyes of Europeans and
blinds them? The United States spent scores of thousands of lives to free
the African slave. England paid millions, and sacrificed ministries and
men, to free the slave; and in England, you--you, Donovan Pasha, and men
like you, would be in the van against slavery. Yet here, where England
has more influence than any other nation--"
"More power, not influence," Dicky interrupted smiling.
"Here, you endure, you encourage, you approve of it. Here, an Englishman
rules a city of slaves in the desert and grows rich out of their labour.
What can we say to the rest of the world, while out there in the
desert"--her eyes swept over the grey and violet hills--"that man,
Kingsley Bey, sets at defiance his race, his country, civilisation, all
those things in which he was educated? Egypt will not believe in English
civilisation, Europe will not believe in her humanity and honesty, so
long as he pursues his wicked course."
She turned with a gesture of impatience, and in silence began to pour the
tea the servant had brought, with a message that Madame had a headache.
Kingsley Bey was about to speak--it was so unfair to listen, and she
would forgive this no more readily than she would forgive slavery. Dicky
"He isn't so black as he's painted, personally. He's a rash, inflammable
sort of fellow, who has a way with the native--treats him well, too, I
believe. Very flamboyant, doomed to failure, so far as his merit is
concerned, but with an incredible luck. He gambled, and he lost a dozen
times; and then gambled again, and won. That's the truth, I fancy. No
real stuff in him whatever."
Their hostess put down her tea-cup, and looked at Dicky in blank
surprise. Not a muscle in his face moved. She looked at Kingsley. He had
difficulty in restraining himself, but by stooping to give her
fox-terrier a piece of cake, he was able to conceal his consternation.
"I cannot--cannot believe it," she said slowly. "The British Consul does
not speak of him like that."
"He is a cousin of the Consul," urged Dicky. "Cousin--what cousin? I
never heard--he never told me that."
"Oh, nobody tells anything in Egypt, unless he's kourbashed or
thumb-screwed. It's safer to tell nothing, you know."
"Cousin! I didn't know there were Kingsleys in that family. What reason
could the Consul have for hiding the relationship?"
"Well, I don't know, you must ask Kingsley. Flamboyant and garrulous as
he is, he probably won't tell you that."
"If I saw Kingsley Bey, I should ask him questions which interest me
more. I should prefer, however, to ask them through a lawyer--to him in
the prisoner's dock."
"You dislike him intensely?"
"I detest him for what he has done; but I do not despise him as you
suggest I should. Flamboyant, garrulous--I don't believe that. I think
him, feel him, to be a hard man, a strong man, and a bad man--if not
"Yet you would put him in the prisoner's dock," interposed Kingsley
musingly, and wondering how he was to tell her that Lord Selden and
Kingsley Bey were one and the same person.
"Certainly. A man who commits public wrongs should be punished. Yet I am
sorry that a man so capable should be so inhuman."
"Your grandfather was inhuman," put in Kingsley. "He owned great West
Indian slave properties.
"He was culpable, and should have been punished--and was; for we are all
poor at last. The world has higher, better standards now, and we should
live up to them. Kingsley Bey should live up to them."
"I suppose we might be able to punish him yet," said Dicky meditatively.
"If Ismail turned rusty, we could soon settle him, I fancy. Certainly,
you present a strong case." He peered innocently into the distance.
"But could it be done--but would you?" she asked, suddenly leaning
forward. "If you would, you could--you could!"
"If I did it at all, if I could make up my mind to it, it should be done
thoroughly--no half measures."
"What would be the whole measures?" she asked eagerly, but with a certain
faint shrinking, for Dicky seemed cold-blooded.
"Of course you never could tell what would happen when Ismail throws the
slipper. This isn't a country where things are cut and dried, and done
according to Hoyle. You get a new combination every time you pull a
string. Where there's no system and a thousand methods you have to run
risks. Kingsley Bey might get mangled in the machinery."
She shrank a little. "It is all barbarous."
"Well, I don't know. He is guilty, isn't he? You said you would like to
see him in the prisoner's dock. You would probably convict him of killing
as well as slavery. You would torture him with prison, and then hang him
in the end. Ismail would probably get into a rage--pretended, of
course--and send an army against him. Kingsley would make a fight for it,
and lose his head--all in the interest of a sudden sense of duty on the
part of the Khedive. All Europe would applaud--all save England, and what
could she do? Can she defend slavery? There'll be no kid-gloved justice
meted out to Kingsley by the Khedive, if he starts a campaign against
him. He will have to take it on the devil's pitchfork. You must be
logical, you know.
"You can't have it both ways. If he is to be punished, it must be after
the custom of the place. This isn't England."
She shuddered slightly, and Dicky went on: "Then, when his head's off,
and his desert-city and his mines are no more, and his slaves change
masters, comes a nice question. Who gets his money? Not that there's any
doubt about who'll get it, but, from your standpoint, who should get it?"
She shook her head in something like embarrassment.
"Money got by slavery--yes, who should get it?" interposed Kingsley
carefully, for her eyes had turned to him for help. "Would you favour his
heirs getting it? Should it go to the State? Should it go to the slaves?
Should it go to a fund for agitation against slavery? . . . You, for
instance, could make use of a fortune like his in a cause like that,
could you not?" he asked with what seemed boyish simplicity.
The question startled her. "I--I don't know. . . . But certainly not,"
she hastened to add; "I couldn't touch the money. It is
"I can't see that," steadily persisted Kingsley. "This money was made out
of the work of slaves. Certainly they were paid--they were, weren't
they?" he asked with mock ignorance, turning to Dicky, who nodded assent.
"They were paid wages by Kingsley--in kind, I suppose, but that's all
that's needed in a country like the Soudan. But still they had to work,
and their lives and bodies were Kingsley's for the time being, and the
fortune wouldn't have been made without them; therefore, according to the
most finely advanced theories of labour and ownership, the fortune is
theirs as much as Kingsley's. But, in the nature of things, they couldn't
have the fortune. What would they do with it? Wandering tribes don't need
money. Barter and exchange of things in kind is the one form of finance
in the Soudan. Besides, they'd cut each other's throats the very first
day they got the fortune, and it would strew the desert sands. It's all
illogical and impossible--"
"Yes, yes, I quite see that," she interposed.
"But you surely can see how the fortune could be applied to saving those
races from slavery. What was wrung from the few by forced labour and loss
of freedom could be returned to the many by a sort of national salvation.
You could spend the fortune wisely--agents and missionaries everywhere;
in the cafes, in the bazaars, in the palace, at court. Judicious gifts:
and, at last, would come a firman or decree putting down slavery, on
penalty of death. The fortune would all go, of course, but think of the
"You mean that the fortune should be spent in buying the decree--in
backsheesh?" she asked bewildered, yet becoming indignant.
"Well, it's like company promoting," Dicky interposed, hugely enjoying
the comedy, and thinking that Kingsley had put the case shrewdly. It was
sure to confuse her. "You have to clear the way, as it were. The
preliminaries cost a good deal, and those who put the machinery in
working order have to be paid. Then there's always some important person
who holds the key of the situation; his counsel has to be asked. Advice
is very expensive."
"It is gross and wicked!" she flashed out.
"But if you got your way? If you suppressed Kingsley Bey, rid the world
of him--well, well, say, banished him," he quickly added, as he saw her
fingers tremble--"and got your decree, wouldn't it be worth while? Fire
is fought with fire, and you would be using all possible means to do what
you esteem a great good. Think of it--slavery abolished, your work
accomplished, Kingsley Bey blotted out!"
Light and darkness were in her face at once. Her eyes were bright, her
brows became knitted, her foot tapped the floor. Of course it was all
make-believe, this possibility, but it seemed too wonderful to think
of--slavery abolished, and through her; and Kingsley Bey, the renegade
Englishman, the disgrace to his country, blotted out.
"Your argument is not sound in many ways," she said at last, trying to
feel her course. "We must be just before all. The whole of the fortune
was not earned by slaves. Kingsley Bey's ability and power were the
original cause of its existence. Without him there would have been no
fortune. Therefore, it would not be justice to give it, even indirectly,
to the slaves for their cause."
"It would be penalty--Kingsley Bey's punishment," said Dicky slyly.
"But I thought he was to be blotted out," she said ironically, yet
brightening, for it seemed to her that she was proving herself
statesmanlike, and justifying her woman's feelings as well.
"When he is blotted out, his fortune should go where it can remedy the
evil of his life."
"He may have been working for some good cause," quietly put in Kingsley.
"Should not that cause get the advantage of his 'ability and power,' as
you have called it, even though he was mistaken, or perverted, or cruel?
Shouldn't an average be struck between the wrong his 'ability and power'
did and the right that same 'ability and power' was intended to advance?"
She turned with admiration to Kingsley. "How well you argue--I remember
you did years ago. I hate slavery and despise and hate slave-dealers and
slave-keepers, but I would be just, too, even to Kingsley Bey. But what
cause, save his own comfort and fortune, would he be likely to serve? Do
you know him?" she added eagerly.
"Since I can remember," answered Kingsley, looking through the
field-glasses at a steamer coming up the river.
"Would you have thought that he would turn out as he has?" she asked
simply. "You see, he appears to me so dark and baleful a figure that I
cannot quite regard him as I regard you, for instance. I could not
realise knowing such a man."
"He had always a lot of audacity," Kingsley replied slowly, "and he
certainly was a schemer in his way, but that came from his helpless
"Was he very poor?" she asked eagerly.
"Always. And he got his estates heavily encumbered. Then there were
people--old ladies--to have annuities, and many to be provided for, and
there was little chance in England for him. Good-temper and brawn weren't
"Egypt's the place for mother-wit," broke in Dicky. "He had that anyhow.
As to his unscrupulousness, of course that's as you may look at it."
"Was he always unscrupulous?" she asked. "I have thought him cruel and
wicked nationally--un-English, shamefully culpable; but a man who is
unscrupulous would do mean low things, and I should like to think that
Kingsley is a villain with good points. I believe he has them, and I
believe that deep down in him is something English and honourable after
all--something to be reckoned with, worked on, developed. See, here is a
letter I had from him two days ago"--she drew it from her pocket and
handed it over to Dicky. "I cannot think him hopeless altogether . . . I
freed the slaves who brought the letter, and sent them on to Cairo. Do
you not feel it is hopeful?" she urged, as Dicky read the letter slowly,
making sotto voce remarks meanwhile.
"Brigands and tyrants can be gallant--there are plenty of instances on
record. What are six slaves to him?"
"He has a thousand to your one," said Kingsley slowly, and as though not
realising his words.
She started, sat up straight in her chair, and looked at him indignantly.
"I have no slaves," she said.
Kingsley Bey had been watching the Circassian girl Mata, in the garden
for some time, and he had not been able to resist the temptation to make
the suggestion that roused her now.
"I think the letter rather high-flown," said Dicky, turning the point,
and handing the open page to Kingsley. "It looks to me as though written
with a purpose."
"What a cryptic remark!" said Kingsley laughing, yet a little chagrined.
"What you probably wish to convey is that it says one thing and means
"Suppose it does," interposed the lady. "The fact remains that he
answered my appeal, which did not mince words, in most diplomatic and
gentlemanly language. What do you think of the letter?" she asked,
turning to Kingsley, and reaching a hand for it.
"I'll guarantee our friend here could do no better, if he sat up all
night," put in Dicky satirically.
"You are safe in saying so, the opportunity being lacking." She laughed,
and folded it up.
"I believe Kingsley Bey means what he says in that letter. Whatever his
purpose, I honestly think that you might have great influence over him,"
mused Dicky, and, getting up, stepped from the veranda, as though to go
to the bank where an incoming steamer they had been watching was casting
anchor. He turned presently, however, came back a step and said "You see,
all our argument resolves itself into this: if Kingsley is to be smashed
only Ismail can do it. If Ismail does it, Kingsley will have the desert
for a bed, for he'll not run, and Ismail daren't spare him. Sequel, all
his fortune will go to the Khedive. Question, what are we going to do
So saying he left them, laughing, and went down the garden-path to the
riverside. The two on the veranda sat silent for a moment, then Kingsley
"These weren't the things we talked about when we saw the clouds gather
over Skaw Fell and the sun shine on the Irish Sea. We've done and seen
much since then. Multitudes have come and gone in the world--and I have
grown grey!" he added with a laugh.
"I've done little-nothing, and I meant and hoped to do much," she almost
pleaded. "I've grown grey too."
"Not one grey hair," he said, with an admiring look. "Grey in spirit
sometimes," she reflected with a tired air. "But you--forgive me, if I
haven't known what you've done. I've lived out of England so long. You
may be at the head of the Government, for all I know. You look to me as
though you'd been a success. Don't smile. I mean it. You look as though
you'd climbed. You haven't the air of an eldest son whose way is cut out
for him, with fifty thousand a year for compensation. What have you been
doing? What has been your work in life?"
"The opposite of yours."
He felt himself a ruffian, but he consoled himself with the thought that
the end at which he aimed was good. It seemed ungenerous to meet her
simple honesty by such obvious repartee, but he held on to see where the
trail would lead.
"That doesn't seem very clear," she said in answer. "Since I came out
here I've been a sort of riverine missionary, an apostle with no
followers, a reformer with a plan of salvation no one will accept."
"We are not stronger than tradition, than the long custom of ages bred in
the bone and practised by the flesh. You cannot change a people by
firmans; you must educate them. Meanwhile, things go on pretty much the
same. You are a generation before your time. It is a pity, for you have
saddened your youth, and you may never live to see accomplished what you
have toiled for."
"Oh, as to that--as to that . . ." She smoothed back her hair lightly,
and her eyes wandered over the distant hills-mauve and saffron and opal,
and tender with the mist of evening. "What does it matter!" she added.
"There are a hundred ways to live, a hundred things to which one might
devote one's life. And as the years went on we'd realise how every form
of success was offset by something undone in another direction, something
which would have given us joy and memory and content--so it seems.
But--but we can only really work out one dream, and it is the working
out--a little or a great distance--which satisfies. I have no sympathy
with those who, living out their dreams, turn regretfully to another
course or another aim, and wonder-wonder, if a mistake hasn't been made.
Nothing is a mistake which comes of a good aim, of the desire for wrongs
righted, the crooked places made straight. Nothing matters so that the
dream was a good one and the heart approves and the eyes see far."
She spoke as though herself in a dream, her look intent on the glowing
distance, as though unconscious of his presence.
"It's good to have lived among mountains and climbed them when you were
young. It gives you bigger ideas of things. You could see a long way with
the sun behind you, from Skaw Fell."
He spoke in a low voice, and her eyes drew back from the distance and
turned on him. She smiled.
"I don't know. I suppose it gives one proportion, though I've been told
by Donovan Pasha and the Consul that I have no sense of proportion. What
difference does it make? It is the metier of some people of this world to
tell the truth, letting it fall as it will, and offend where it will, to
be in a little unjust maybe, measure wrongly here and there, lest the day
pass and nothing be done. It is for the world to correct, to adjust, to
organise, to regulate the working of the truth. One person cannot do
Every minute made him more and more regretful, while it deepened his
feelings for her. He saw how far removed was her mind from the sordid
views of things, and how sincere a philosophy governed her actions and
He was about to speak, but she continued: "I suppose I've done unwise
things from a worldly, a diplomatic, and a political point of view.
I've--I've broken my heart on the rock of the impossible, so my father
says. . . . But, no, I haven't broken my heart. I have only given it a
little too much hope sometimes, too much disappointment at others. In any
case--can one be pardoned for quoting poetry in these days? I don't know,
I've been so long out of the world--
'Bruised hearts when all is ended,
Bear the better all after-stings;
Broken once, the citadel mended
Standeth through all things.'
There was no more satirical laughter in his eyes. He was deeply in
earnest, disturbed, even excited. "Egypt means everything in the world to
me. I would do what I could for her."
"What has she done for you?"
"She has brought me to you again--to make me know that what you were by
Skaw Fell all those years ago, you are now, and a thousand times more."
She parried the dangerous meaning in his voice, refused to see the
tenderness in his manner.
"I'm very sorry to hear that," she added in a tone vainly trying to be
unconcerned. "It is a pity that our youth pursues us in forms so little
desirable. . . . Who are they?" she added quickly, nodding towards the
shore, from which Dicky was coming with an Egyptian officer and a squad
"H'm," he responded laughing, "it looks like a matter of consequence. A
Pasha, I should think, to travel with an escort like that."
"They're coming here," she added, and, calling to her servant, ordered
Suddenly Kingsley got to his feet, with a cry of consternation; but sat
down again smiling with a shrug of the shoulders.
"What is it?" she asked, with something like anxiety, for she had seen
the fleeting suspicion in his look.
"I don't know," he answered lightly, and as though the suspicion had
gone. He watched Dicky and his companions closely, however, though he
chatted unconcernedly while they stood in apparent debate, and presently
came on. Dicky was whistling softly, but with an air of perplexity, and
he walked with a precision of step which told Kingsley of difficulty
ahead. He had not long to wait, and as Dicky drew nearer and looked him
in the eyes, he came to his feet again, his long body gathering itself
slowly up, as though for deliberate action. He felt trouble in the air,
matters of moment, danger for himself, though of precisely what sort was
not clear. He took a step forward, as though to shield the lady from
"I fancy they want to see me," he said. He recognised the officer--Foulik
Pasha of the Khedive's household.
The Pasha salaamed. Dicky drew over to the lady, with a keen warning
glance at Kingsley. The Pasha salaamed again, and Kingsley responded in
kind. "Good-day to you, Pasha," he said.
"May the dew of the morning bring flowers to your life, Excellency," was
the reply. He salaamed now towards the lady, and Kingsley murmured his
name to her.
"Will you not be seated," she said, and touched a chair as though to sit
down, yet casting a doubtful glance at the squad of men and the brilliant
kavass drawn up near by. The Pasha looked from one to the other, and
"What is it, Pasha? Her ladyship doesn't know why she should be
"But that makes no difference," she interposed. "Here is coffee--ah,
that's right, cigarettes too! But, yes, you will take my coffee, Pasha,"
The insolent look which had gathered in the man's face cleared away. He
salaamed, hesitated, and took the coffee, then salaamed again to her.
She had caught at a difficulty; an instinctive sense of peril had taken
possession of her; and, feeling that the danger was for the Englishman
who had come to her out of her old life, she had interposed a diplomatic
moment. She wanted to gain time before the mystery broke over her. She
felt something at stake for herself. Premonition, a troubling of the
spirit, told her that she was in the presence of a crisis out of which
she would not come unchanged.
Dicky was talking now, helping her--asking the Pasha questions of his
journey up the river, of the last news from Europe, of the Khedive's
health, though he and Kingsley had only left Cairo a half-day before the
The officer thanked the lady and salaamed again, then turned towards
"You wished to speak with me, perhaps, Pasha," said Kingsley.
"If a moment of your time may have so little honour, saadat el bey."
Kingsley moved down the veranda shoulder to shoulder with the Pasha, and
the latter's men, responding to a glance, moved down also. Kingsley saw,
but gave no heed.
"What's up, Pasha?" he asked in a low voice. "The Khedive commands your
return to Cairo."
"Compulsion, eh? I don't see quite. I'm an Englishman, not a fellah."
"But I have my commands, saadat el bey."
"What's the row, Pasha?"
"Is it for the servant to know the mind of his master?"
"And if I don't go?"
The Pasha pointed to his men, and motioned towards the boat where forty
or fifty others showed. "Bosh, Pasha! That's no reason. That's flummery,
and you know and the Highness knows it. That would have been all very
well in the desert, but this is not the desert, and I'm not doing
business with the Highness any more. What's the penalty if I don't go?"
"Twenty men will lose their heads to-morrow morning, a riot will occur,
the bank where much gold is will be broken into, some one will be made
"Come, never mind twaddle about my money--we'll see about that. Those
twenty men--my men?"
"Your men, saadat el bey."
"They are in prison."
"At Abdin Palace."
Kingsley Bey had had a blow, but he was not dumfounded. In Egypt, the
wise man is never surprised at anything, and Kingsley had gone from
experience to experience without dismay. He realised the situation at
once. The Khedive had been worked upon by some one in the circle, and had
put on this pressure, for purposes of backsheesh, or blackmail, or
whatever it might be called. His mind was made up at once.
"Very well, Pasha. Though there's no reason why I should go with you
except to suit myself. You'll excuse me for a moment, please." He turned
back. Meanwhile, Dicky had been distracting the mind of the lady with
evasive and cheerful suggestions of urgent business calling Kingsley to
Cairo. He saw the plot that had been laid, and it made him very angry,
but nothing could be done until he met the Khedive.
He guessed who had filled the Khedive's mind with cupidity. He had seen
old Selamlik Pasha, who had lent the Khedive much money, entering the
palace as he left with Kingsley Bey thirty-six hours before. He had hope
that he could save the situation, but meanwhile he was concerned for the
new situation created here at Assiout. What would Kingsley do? He knew
what he himself would do in the circumstances, but in crises few men of
character do the necessary thing in exactly the same way. Here was comedy
of a high order, a mystery and necessary revelation of singular piquancy.
To his thinking the revelation was now overdue.
He looked at the woman beside him, and he saw in her face a look it never
had had before. Revelation of a kind was there; beauty, imagination,
solicitude, delicate wonder were there. It touched him. He had never been
arrested on his way of life by any dream of fair women, or any dream of
any woman. It did not seem necessary--no one was necessary to him; he
lived his real life alone, never sharing with any one that of himself
which was not part of the life he lived before the world. Yet he had
always been liked by men, and he had been agreeable in the sight of more
women than he knew, this little man with a will of iron and a friendly
heart. But he laughed silently now as he saw Kingsley approaching; the
situation was so beautifully invented. It did not seem quite like a thing
in real life. In any other country than Egypt it would have been comic
opera--Foulik Pasha and his men so egregiously important; Kingsley so
overwhelmed by the duty that lay before him; the woman in a whimsically
embarrassing position with the odds, the laugh, against her, yet little
likely to take the obvious view of things and so make possible a
commonplace end. What would she do? What would Kingsley do? What would
he, Dicky Donovan, do? He knew by the look in Kingsley's eyes that it was
time for him to go. He moved down to Foulik Pasha, and, taking his arm,
urged him towards the shore with a whispered word. The Pasha responded,
followed by his men, but presently turned and, before Dicky could
intervene--for he wanted Kingsley to make his own revelation--said
"May the truth of Allah be with you, I will await you at the boat,
Dicky did not turn round, but, with a sharp exclamation of profanity,
drew Foulik Pasha on his imbecile way.
As for Kingsley Bey, he faced a woman who, as the truth dawned upon her,
stared at him in a painful silence for a moment, and then drew back to
the doorway of the house as though to find sudden refuge. Kingsley's head
went round. Nothing had gone according to his anticipations. Foulik Pasha
had upset things.
"Now you know--I wished to tell you myself," he said.
She answered at once, quietly, coldly, and with an even formal voice: "I
did not know your name was Kingsley."
"It was my grandmother's name."
"I had forgotten--that is of no consequence, however; but--" she stopped.
"You realise that I am--"
"Yes, of course, Kingsley Bey--I quite understand. I thought you Lord
Selden, an English gentleman. You are--" she made an impatient
gesture--"well, you are English still!"
He was hit hard. The suggestion of her voice was difficult to bear.
"I am not so ungentlemanly as you think. I meant to tell you--almost at
once. I thought that as an old friend I might wait a moment or two. The
conversation got involved, and it grew harder every minute. Then Foulik
Pasha came-and now. . . ."
She showed no signs of relenting. "It was taking advantage of an
old-acquaintance. Against your evil influence here I have been working
for years, while you have grown rich out of the slavery I detest. You
will pardon my plain speaking, but this is not London, and one has had to
learn new ways in this life here. I do not care for the acquaintance of
slave-drivers, I have no wish to offer them hospitality. The world is
large and it belongs to other people, and one has to endure much when one
walks abroad; but this house is my own place, a little spot all my own,
and I cherish it. There are those who come to the back door, and they are
fed and clothed and sent away by the hand of charity; there are those who
come to the front door, and I welcome them gladly--all that I have is
theirs; there are those who come to a side door, when no one sees, and
take me unawares, and of them I am afraid, their presence I resent. My
doors are not open to slave-drivers."
"What is the difference between the letter from the slave-driver's hand
and the slave-driver himself?"
She started and flushed deeply. She took the letter slowly from her
pocket and laid it on the table.
"I thought it a letter from a man who was openly doing wrong, and who
repented a little of his wrongdoing. I thought it a letter from a
stranger, from an Englishman who, perhaps, had not had such advantages of
birth and education as came to you."
"Yet you had a good opinion of the letter. There seemed no want of
education and all that there--won't you be reasonable, and let me
explain? Give me half a chance."
"I do not see that explanation can mend anything. The men you sent me to
free: that was a-well, call it a manoeuvre, to achieve what, I cannot
tell. Is it not so? The men are not free. Is it not so?"
"I am afraid they are not free," he answered, smiling in spite of
"Your coming here was a manoeuvre also--for what purpose I do not know.
Yet it was a manoeuvre, and I am--or was to be--the victim of the plot."
She smiled scornfully. "I trust you may yet be the victim of your own
"In more ways than one, maybe. Don't you think, now that the tables are
turned, that you might have mercy on 'a prisoner and a captive'?"
She looked at him inquiringly, then glanced towards the shore where Dicky
stood talking with Foulik Pasha. Her eyes came back slowly and again
asked a question. All at once intelligence flashed into them.
"You wished to see Kingsley Bey a prisoner; you have your wish," he said
"Whose prisoner?" she asked, still coldly. "The Khedive's."
A flash of triumph crossed her face. Her heart beat hard. Had it come at
last, the edict to put down slavery? Had the Khedive determined to put an
end to the work of Kingsley Bey in his desert-city-and to Kingsley Bey
himself? . . . Her heart stopped beating now. She glanced towards Dicky
Donovan, and her pulses ran more evenly again. Would the Khedive have
taken such a step unless under pressure? And who in Egypt could have,
would have, persuaded him, save Dicky Donovan? Yet Dicky was here with
his friend Kingsley Bey. The mystery troubled her, and the trouble got
into her eyes.
"You are going to Cairo?" she said, glancing towards the boat.
"It would seem so."
"And Donovan Pasha goes too?"
"I hope so. I am not sure."
"But he must go," she said a little sharply.
"He--you must have somebody, and he has great power."
"That might or might not be to my benefit. After all, what does it
matter?"--He saw that she was perturbed, and he pressed his advantage.
She saw, however, and retreated. "We reap as we sow," she said, and made
as if to go inside the house. "You have had the game, you must pay for
the candles out of your earnings."
"I don't mind paying what's fair. I don't want other people to pay."
She turned angrily on him, he could not tell why. "You don't want others
to pay! As if you could do anything that doesn't affect others. Did you
learn that selfishness at Skaw Fell, or was it born with you? You are of
those who think they earn all their own success and happiness, and then,
when they earn defeat and despair, are surprised that others suffer. As
if our penalties were only paid by ourselves! Egotism, vanity! So long as
you have your dance, it matters little to you who pays for the tune."
"I am sorry." He was bewildered; he had not expected this.
"Does a man stoop to do in a foreign land what he would not do in his own
country--dare not do?--One is so helpless--a woman! Under cover of an old
friend ship--ah!" She suddenly turned, and, before he could say a word,
disappeared inside the house. He spoke her name once, twice; he ventured
inside the house, and called, but she did not come. He made his way to
the veranda, and was about to leave for the shore, when he heard a step
behind him. He turned quickly. It was the Circassian girl, Mata.
He spoke to her in Arabic, and she smiled at him. "What is it?" he asked,
for he saw she had come from her mistress.
"My Lady begs to excuse--but she is tired," she said in English, which
she loved to use.
"I am to go on--to prison, then?"
"I suppose. It has no matter. My Lady is angry. She has to say, 'Thank
you, good-bye.' So, goodbye," she added naively, and held out her hand.
Kingsley laughed, in spite of his discomfiture, and shook it.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I am My Lady's slave," she said proudly.
"No, no--her servant. You can come and go as you like. You have wages."
"I am Mata, the slave--My Lady's slave. All the world knows I am her
slave. Was I not given her by the Khedive whose slave I was? May the
leaves of life be green always, but I am Mata the slave," she said
stubbornly, shaking her head.
"Do you tell My Lady so?"
"Wherefore should I tell My Lady what she knows? Is not the truth the
truth? Good-night! I had a brother who went to prison. His grave is by
Stamboul. Good-night, effendi. He was too young to die, but he had gold,
and the captain of the citadel needed money. So, he had to die. Malaish!
He is in the bosom of God, and prison does not last forever. Goodnight,
effendi. If you, effendi, are poor, it is well; no man will desire your
life. Then you can be a slave, and have quiet nights. If you are rich,
effendi, remember my brother. Good-night, effendi. May sacrifices be
yours . . . and My Lady says good-night." Kingsley gave her a gold-piece
and went down to Foulik Pasha.
As they steamed away Kingsley looked in vain to the house on the shore.
There was no face at window or door, no sign of life about the place.
"Well, my bold bey," said Donovan Pasha to him at last, "what do you
think of Egypt now?"
"I'm not thinking of Egypt now."
"Did the lady deeply sympathise? Did your prescription work?"
"You know it didn't. Nothing worked. This fool Foulik came at the wrong
"It wouldn't have made any difference. You see you were playing with
marked cards, and that is embarrassing. You got a certificate of
"Yes, I know. That's what she said. Never mind. I've played as I meant to
play, and I'll abide the result. I said I'd marry her, and I mean to,
though she gently showed me the door--beautiful, proud person!"
"She is much too good for you."
"What does that matter, if she doesn't think so?"
"My opinion is she'll never touch you or your slave-gold with a
Dicky did not think this, but it was his way of easing his own mind.
Inwardly he was studying the situation, and wondering how he could put
Kingsley's business straight.
"She thinks I'm still a 'slave-driver,' as she calls it--women are so
innocent. You did your part, as well as could be expected, I'm bound to
say. I only wish I wasn't so much trouble to you. I owe you a lot, Dicky
Pasha--everything! You got me the golden shillings to start with; you had
faith in me; you opened the way to fortune, to the thing that's more than
"I'm not altogether proud of you. You've messed things to-day."
"I'll set them right to-morrow--with your help. Ismail is going a bit
large this time."
"He is an Oriental. A life or two--think of Sadik Pasha. Your men--"
"Well? You think he'd do it--think he'd dare to do it?"
"Suppose they disappeared? Who could prove that Ismail did it? And if it
could be proved--they're his own subjects, and the Nile is near! Who can
say him nay?"
"I fancy you could--and I would."
"I can do something. I've done a little in my day; but my day, like
Ismail's, is declining. They are his subjects, and he needs money, and he
puts a price on their heads--that's about the size of it. Question How
much will you have to pay? How much have you in Cairo at the bank?"
"Only about ten thousand pounds."
"He'd take your draft on England, but he'll have that ten thousand
pounds, if he can get it."
"That doesn't matter, but as for my arrest--"
"A trick, on some trumped-up charge. If he can hold you long enough to
get some of your cash, that's all he wants. He knows he's got no
jurisdiction over you--not a day's hold. He knows you'd give a good deal
to save your men."
"Poor devils! But to be beaten by this Egyptian bulldozer--not if I know
"Still, it may be expensive."
"Ah!" Kingsley Bey sighed, and his face was clouded, but Dicky knew he
was not thinking of Ismail or the blackmail. His eyes were on the house
by the shore, now disappearing, as they rounded a point of land.
"Ah" said Donovan Pasha, but he did not sigh.
"Ah!" said a lady, in a dirty pink house at Assiout, with an accent which
betrayed a discovery and a resolution, "I will do it. I may be of use
some way or another. The Khedive won't dare--but still the times are
desperate. As Donovan Pasha said, it isn't easy holding down the
safety-valve all the time, and when it flies off, there will be dark days
for all of us. . . . An old friend--bad as he is! Yes, I will go."
Within forty-eight hours of Donovan Pasha's and Kingsley Bey's arrival in
Cairo the lady appeared there, and made inquiries of her friends. No one
knew anything. She went to the Consulate, and was told that Kingsley Bey
was still in prison, that the Consulate had not yet taken action.
She went to Donovan Pasha, and he appeared far more mysterious and
troubled than he really was. Kingsley Bey was as cheerful as might be
expected, he said, but the matter was grave. He was charged with the
destruction of the desert-city, and maintaining an army of slaves in the
Khedive's dominions--a menace to the country.
"But it was with the Khedive's connivance," she said. "Who can prove
that? It's a difficult matter for England to handle, as you can see."
This was very wily of Dicky Donovan, for he was endeavouring to create
alarm and sympathy in the woman's mind by exaggerating the charge. He
knew that in a few days at most Kingsley Bey would be free. He had
himself given Ismail a fright, and had even gone so far as to suggest
inside knowledge of the plans of Europe concerning Egypt. But if he could
deepen the roots of this comedy for Kingsley's benefit--and for the
lady's--it was his duty so to do.
"Of course," he made haste to add, "you cannot be expected to feel
sympathy for him. In your eyes, he is a criminal. He had a long innings,
and made a mint of money. We must do all we can, and, of course, we'll
save his life--ah, I'm sure you wouldn't exact the fullest penalty on
Dicky was more than wily; he was something wicked. The suggestion of
danger to Kingsley's life had made her wince, and he had added another
little barbed arrow to keep the first company. The cause was a good one.
Hurt now to heal afterwards--and Kingsley was an old friend, and a good
fellow. Anyhow, this work was wasting her life, and she would be much
better back in England, living a civilised life, riding in the Row, and
slumming a little, in the East End, perhaps, and presiding at meetings
for the amelioration of the unameliorated. He was rather old-fashioned in
his views. He saw the faint trouble in her eyes and face, and he made up
his mind that he would work while it was yet the day. He was about to
speak, but she suddenly interposed a question.
"Is he comfortable? How does he take it?"
"Why, all right. You know the kind of thing: mud walls and floor--quite
dry, of course--and a sleeping-mat, and a balass of water, and cakes of
dourha, and plenty of time to think. After all, he's used to primitive
Donovan Pasha was drawing an imaginary picture, and drawing it with
effect. He almost believed it as his artist's mind fashioned it. She
believed it, and it tried her. Kingsley Bey was a criminal, of course,
but he was an old friend; he had offended her deeply also, but that was
no reason why he should be punished by any one save herself. Her regimen
of punishments would not necessarily include mud walls and floor, and a
sleeping-mat and a balass of water; and whatever it included it should
not be administered by any hand save her own. She therefore resented, not
quite unselfishly, this indignity and punishment the Khedive had
"When is he to be tried?"
"Well, that is hardly the way to put it. When he can squeeze the Khedive
into a corner he'll be free, but it takes time. We have to go carefully,
for it isn't the slave-master alone, it's those twenty slaves of his,
including the six you freed. Their heads are worth a good deal to the
Khedive, he thinks."
She was dumfounded. "I don't understand," she said helplessly.
"Well, the Khedive put your six and fourteen others in prison for treason
or something--it doesn't matter much here what it is. His game is to
squeeze Kingsley's gold orange dry, if he can."
A light broke over her face. "Ah, now I see," she said, and her face
flushed deeply with anger and indignation. "And you--Donovan Pasha, you
who are supposed to have influence with the Khedive, who are supposed to
be an English influence over him, you can speak of this quietly,
patiently, as a matter possible to your understanding. This barbarous,
hideous black mail! This cruel, dreadful tyranny! You, an Englishman,
remain in the service of the man who is guilty of such a crime!" Her
breath came hard.
"Well, it seems the wisest thing to do as yet. You have lived a long time
in Egypt, you should know what Oriental rule is. Question: Is one bite of
a cherry better than no bite of a cherry? Egypt is like a circus, but
there are wild horses in the ring, and you can't ride them just as you
like. If you keep them inside the barriers, that's something. Of course,
Kingsley made a mistake in a way. He didn't start his desert-city and his
slavery without the consent of the Khedive; he shouldn't have stopped it
and gone out of business without the same consent. It cut down the
He spoke slowly, counting every word, watching the effect upon her. He
had much to watch, and he would have seen more if he had known women
"He has abandoned the mines--his city--and slavery?" she asked chokingly,
confusedly. It seemed hard for her to speak.
"Yes, yes, didn't you know? Didn't he tell you?" She shook her head. She
was thinking back-remembering their last conversation, remembering how
sharp and unfriendly she had been with him. He had even then freed his
slaves, had given her slaves to free.
"I wonder what made him do it?" added Dicky. "He had made a great
fortune--poor devil, he needed it, for the estates were sweating under
the load. I wonder what made him do it?"
She looked at him bewilderedly for a moment, then, suddenly, some faint
suspicion struck her.
"You should know. You joined with him in deceiving me at Assiout."
"But, no," he responded quickly, and with rare innocence, "the situation
was difficult. You already knew him very well, and it was the force of
circumstances--simply the force of circumstances. Bad luck--no more. He
was innocent, mine was the guilt. I confess I was enjoying the thing,
because--because, you see he had deceived me, actually deceived me, his
best friend. I didn't know he knew you personally, till you two met on
that veranda at Assiout, and--"
"And you made it difficult for him to explain at once--I remember."
"I'm afraid I did. I've got a nasty little temper at times, and I had a
chance to get even. Then things got mixed, and Foulik Pasha upset the
whole basket of plums. Besides, you see, I'm a jealous man, an envious
man, and you never looked so well as you did that day, unless it's
She was about to interrupt him, but he went on.
"I had begun to feel that we might have been better friends, you and I;
that--that I might have helped you more; that you had not had the
sympathy you deserved; that civilisation was your debtor, and that--"
"No, no, no, you must not speak that way to me," she interposed with
agitation. "It--it is not necessary. It doesn't bear on the matter. And
you've always been a good friend--always a good friend," she added with a
little friendly quiver in her voice, for she was not quite sure of
Dicky had come out in a new role, one wherein he would not have been
recognised. It was probably the first time he had ever tried the delicate
social art of playing with fire of this sort. It was all true in a way,
but only in a way. The truest thing about it was that it was genuine
comedy, in which there were two villains, and no hero, and one heroine.
"But there it is," he repeated, having gone as far as his cue warranted.
"I didn't know he had given up his desert-city till two days before you
did, and I didn't know he knew you, and I don't know why he gave up his
There was a new light in her eyes, a new look in her face. She was not
sure but that she had a glimmering of the reason. It was a woman's
reason, and it was not without a certain exquisite egotism and vanity,
for she remembered so well the letter she had written him--every word was
etched into her mind; and she knew by heart every word of his reply. Then
there were the six slaves he sent to her-and his coming immediately
afterwards. . . . For a moment she seemed to glow, and then the colour
slowly faded and left her face rather grey and very quiet.
He might not be a slave-driver now, but he had been one--and the world of
difference it made to her! He had made his great fortune out of the work
of the men employed as slaves, and--she turned away to the window with a
dejected air. For the first time the real weight of the problem pressed
upon her heavily.
"Perhaps you would like to see him," said Dicky. "It might show that you
"Magnanimous! It will look like that--in a mud-cell, with mud floor, and
a piece of matting."
"And a balass of water and dourha-cakes," said Dicky in a childlike way,
and not daring to meet her eyes.
He stroked his moustache with his thumb-nail in a way he had when
perplexed. Kingsley Bey was not in a mud-cell, with a mat and a balass of
water, but in a very decent apartment indeed, and Dicky was trying to
work the new situation out in his mind. The only thing to do was to have
Kingsley removed to a mud-cell, and not let him know the author of his
temporary misfortune and this new indignity. She was ready to visit him
now--he could see that. He made difficulties, however, which would
prevent their going at once, and he arranged with her to go to Kingsley
in the late afternoon.
Her mind was in confusion, but one thing shone clear through the
confusion, and it was the iniquity of the Khedive. It gave her a
foothold. She was deeply grateful for it. She could not have moved
without it. So shameful was the Khedive in her eyes that the prisoner
seemed Criminal made Martyr.
She went back to her hotel flaming with indignation against Ismail. It
was very comforting to her to have this resource. The six slaves whom she
had freed--the first-fruits of her labours: that they should be murdered!
The others who had done no harm, who had been slaves by Ismail's consent,
that they should be now in danger of their lives through the same tyrant!
That Kingsley Bey, who had been a slave-master with Ismail's own approval
and to his advantage, should now--she glowed with pained anger. . . . She
would not wait till she had seen Kingsley Bey, or Donovan Pasha again;
she herself would go to Ismail at once.
So, she went to Ismail, and she was admitted, after long waiting in an
anteroom. She would not have been admitted at all, if it had not been for
Dicky, who, arriving just before her on the same mission, had seen her
coming, and guessed her intention. He had then gone in to the Khedive
with a new turn to his purposes, a new argument and a new suggestion,
which widened the scope of the comedy now being played. He had had a
struggle with Ismail, and his own place and influence had been in
something like real danger, but he had not minded that. He had suggested
that he might be of service to Egypt in London and Paris. That was very
like a threat, but it was veiled by a look of genial innocence which
Ismail admired greatly. He knew that Donovan Pasha could hasten the
crisis coming on him. He did not believe that Donovan Pasha would, but
that did not alter the astuteness and value of the move; and, besides, it
was well to run no foolish risks and take no chances. Also, he believed
in Donovan Pasha's honesty. He despised him in a worldly kind of way,
because he might have been rich and splendid, and he was poor and
unassuming. He wanted Kingsley Bey's fortune, or a great slice of it, but
he wanted it without a struggle with Dicky Donovan, and with the British
Consulate--for that would come, too, directly. It gave him no security to
know that the French would be with him--he knew which country would win
in the end. He was preying on Kingsley Bey's humanity, and he hoped to
make it well worth while. And all he thought and planned was well
understood by Dicky.
Over their coffee they both talked from long distances towards the point
of attack and struggle, Ismail carelessly throwing in glowing
descriptions of the palaces he was building. Dicky never failed to show
illusive interest, and both knew that they were not deceiving the other,
and both came nearer to the issue by devious processes, as though these
processes were inevitable. At last Dicky suddenly changed his manner and
came straight to the naked crisis.
"Highness, I have an invitation for Kingsley Bey to dine at the British
Consulate to-night. You can spare his presence?"
"My table is not despicable. Is he not comfortable here?"
"Is a mud floor, with bread and water and a sleeping-mat, comfortable?"
"He is lodged like a friend."
"He is lodged like a slave--in a cell."
"They were not my orders."
"Effendina, the orders were mine."
"Because there were no orders and Foulik Pasha was sleepless with anxiety
lest the prisoner should escape, fearing your Highness's anger, I gave
orders and trusted your Highness to approve."
Ismail saw a mystery in the words, and knew that it was all to be part of
Dicky's argument in the end. "So be it, Excellency," he said, "thou hast
breathed the air of knowledge, thine actions shine. In what quarter of
the palace rests he? And Foulik Pasha?"
"Foulik Pasha sits by his door, and the room is by the doorway where the
sarrafs keep the accounts for the palaces your Highness builds. Also,
abides near, the Greek, who toils upon the usury paid by your Highness to
Ismail smiled. The allusions were subtle and piercing. There was a short
pause. Each was waiting. Dicky changed the attack. "It is a pity we
should be in danger of riot at this moment, Highness."
"If riots come, they come. It is the will of God, Excellency. But in our
hand lies order. We will quiet the storm, if a storm fall."
"There will be wreck somewhere."
"So be it. There will be salvage."
"Nothing worth a riot, Highness."
The Khedive eyed Dicky with a sudden malice and a desire to slay--to slay
even Donovan Pasha. He did not speak, and Dicky continued negligently:
"Prevention is better than cure."
The Khedive understood perfectly. He knew that Dicky had circumvented
him, and had warned the Bank.
Still the Khedive did not speak. Dicky went on. "Kingsley Bey deposited
ten thousand pounds--no more. But the gold is not there; only Kingsley
"His slaves shall die to-morrow morning."
"Not so, Highness."
The Khedive's fingers twisted round the chair-arm savagely.
"Who will prevent it?"
"Your Highness will. Your Highness could not permit it--the time is far
past. Suppose Kingsley Bey gave you his whole fortune, would it save one
palace or pay one tithe of your responsibilities? Would it lengthen the
chain of safety?"
"I am safe."
"No, Highness. In peril--here with your own people, in Europe with the
nations. Money will not save you."
"Prestige. Power--the Soudan. Establish yourself in the Soudan with a
real army. Let your name be carried to the Abyssinian mountains as the
voice of the eagle."
"Who will carry it?" He laughed disdainfully, with a bitter, hopeless
kind of pride. "Who will carry it?"
The Khedive started from his chair, and his sullen eye lighted to
laughter. He paced excitedly to and fro for a minute, and then broke out:
"Thou hast said it! Gordon--Gordon--if he would but come again!--But it
shall be so, by the beard of God's prophet, it shall. Thou hast said the
thing that has lain in my heart. Have I had honour in the Soudan since
his feet were withdrawn? Where is honour and tribute and gold since his
hand ruled--alone without an army? It is so--Inshallah! but it is so. He
shall come again, and the people's eyes will turn to Khartoum and Darfdr
and Kordofan, and the greedy nations will wait. Ah, my friend, but the
true inspiration is thine! I will send for Gordon to night--even
to-night. Thou shalt go--no, no, not so. Who can tell--I might look for
thy return in vain! But who--who, to carry my word to Gordon?"
"Your messenger is in the anteroom," said Dicky with a sudden thought.
"Who is it, son of the high hills?"
"The lady at Assiout--she who is such a friend to Gordon as I am to thee,
"She whose voice and hand are against slavery?"
"Even so. It is good that she return to England there to remain. Send
"Why is she here?" The Khedive looked suspiciously at Dicky, for it
seemed that a plot had been laid.
Thereupon, Dicky told the Khedive the whole story, and not in years had
Ismail's face shown such abandon of humour.
"By the will of God, but it shall be!" he said. "She shall marry Kingsley
Bey, and he shall go free."
"But not till she has seen him and mourned over him in his cell, with the
mud floor and the balass of water."
The Khedive laughed outright and swore in French. "And the cakes of
dourha! I will give her as a parting gift the twenty slaves, and she
shall bring her great work to a close in the arms of a slaver. It is
worth a fortune."
"It is worth exactly ten thousand pounds to your Highness--ten thousand
pounds neither more nor less."
"Kingsley Bey would make last tribute of thus much to your Highness."
Ismail would not have declined ten thousand centimes. "Malaish!" he said,
and called for coffee, while they planned what should be said to his
Ambassadress from Assiout.
She came trembling, yet determined, and she left with her eyes full of
joyful tears. She was to carry the news of his freedom and the freedom of
his slaves to Kingsley Bey, and she--she, was to bear to Gordon, the foe
of slavery, the world's benefactor, the message that he was to come and
save the Soudan. Her vision was enlarged, and never went from any prince
a more grateful supplicant and envoy.
Donovan Pasha went with her to the room with the mud floor where Kingsley
Bey was confined.
"I owe it all to you," she said as they hastened across the sun-swept
square. "Ah, but you have atoned! You have done it all at once, after
these long years."
"Well, well, the time is ripe," said Dicky piously. They found Kingsley
Bey reading the last issue of the French newspaper published in Cairo. He
was laughing at some article in it abusive of the English, and seemed not
very downcast; but at a warning sign and look from Dicky, he became as
grave as he was inwardly delighted at seeing the lady of Assiout.
As Kingsley Bey and the Ambassadress shook hands, Dicky said to her:
"I'll tell him, and then go." Forthwith he said: "Kingsley Bey, son of
the desert, and unhappy prisoner, the prison opens its doors. No more for
you the cold earth for a bed--relieved though it be by a sleeping-mat. No
more the cake of dourha and the balass of Nile water. Inshallah, you are
as free as a bird on the mountain top, to soar to far lands and none to
say thee nay."
Kingsley Bey caught instantly at the meaning lying beneath Dicky's
whimsical phrases, and he deported himself accordingly. He looked
inquiringly at the Ambassadress, and she responded:
"We come from the Khedive, and he bids us carry you his high
"Yes, 'high considerations,' he said," interjected Dicky with his eye
towards a fly on the ceiling.
"And to beg your company at dinner to-night."
"And the price?" asked Kingsley, feeling his way carefully, for he wished
no more mistakes where this lady was concerned. At Assiout he had erred;
he had no desire to be deceived at Cairo. He did not know how he stood
with her, though her visit gave him audacious hopes. Her face was ruled
to quietness now, and only in the eyes resolutely turned away was there
any look which gave him assurance. He seemed to hear her talking from the
veranda that last day at Assiout; and it made him discreet at least.
"Oh, the price!" murmured Dicky, and he seemed to study the sleepy sarraf
who pored over his accounts in the garden. "The price is 'England, home,
and beauty.' Also to prop up the falling towers of Khedivia--ten thousand
pounds! Also, Gordon."
Kingsley Bey appeared, as he was, mystified, but he was not inclined to
spoil things by too much speaking. He looked inquiry.
At that moment an orderly came running towards the door--Dicky had
arranged for that. Dicky started, and turned to the lady. "You tell him.
This fellow is coming for me. I'll be back in a quarter of an hour." He
nodded to them both and went out to the orderly, who followed his
footsteps to the palace.
"You've forgiven me for everything--for everything at Assiout, I mean?"
"I have no desire to remember," she answered. "About Gordon--what is it?"
"Ah, yes, about Gordon!" She drew herself up a little. "I am to go to
England--for the Khedive, to ask Gordon to save the Soudan."
"Then you've forgiven the Khedive?" he inquired with apparent innocence.
"I've no wish to prevent him showing practical repentance," she answered,
keenly alive to his suggestion, and a little nettled. "It means no more
slavery. Gordon will prevent that."
"Will he?" asked Kingsley, again with muffled mockery.
"He is the foe of slavery. How many, many letters I have had from him! He
will save the Soudan--and Egypt too."
"He will be badly paid--the Government will stint him. And he will give
away his pay--if he gets any."
She did not see his aim, and her face fell. "He will succeed for all
"He can levy taxes, of course."
"But he will not-for himself."
"I will give him twenty thousand pounds, if he will take it."
"You--you!--will give him--" Her eyes swam with pleasure. "Ah, that is
noble! That makes wealth a glory, to give it to those who need it. To
save those who are down-trodden, to help those who labour for the good of
the world, to--" she stopped short, for all at once she
remembered-remembered whence his money came. Her face suffused. She
turned to the door. Confusion overmastered her for the moment. Then,
anger at herself possessed her. On what enterprise was she now embarked?
Where was her conscience? For what was she doing all this? What was the
true meaning of her actions? Had it been to circumvent the Khedive? To
prevent him from doing an unjust, a despicable, and a dreadful thing? Was
it only to help the Soudan? Was it but to serve a high ideal, through an
ideal life--through Gordon?
It came upon her with embarrassing force. For none of these things was
she striving. She was doing all for this man, against whose influence she
had laboured, whom she had bitterly condemned, and whose fortune she had
called blood-money and worse. And now...
She knew the truth, and it filled her heart with joy and also pain. Then
she caught at a straw: he was no slave-driver now. He had--
"May I not help you--go with you to England?" he questioned over her
"Like Alexander Selkirk 'I shall finish my journey alone,'" she said,
with sudden but imperfectly assumed acerbity.
"Will you not help me, then?" he asked. "We could write a book together."
"Oh, a book!" she said.
"A book of life," he whispered.
"No, no, no--can't you see?--oh, you are playing me like a ball!"
"Only to catch you," he said, in a happier tone.
"To jest, when I am so unhappy!" she murmured.
"My jest is the true word."
She made a last rally. "Your fortune was made out of slave labour."
"I have given up the slaves."
"You have the fortune."
"I will give it all to you--to have your will with it. Now it is won, I
would give it up and a hundred times as much to hear you say, 'Come to
Skaw Fell again."'
Did he really mean it? She thought he did. And it seemed the only way out
of the difficulty. It broke the impasse.
It was not necessary, however, to spend the future in the way first
suggested to her mind. They discussed all that at Skaw Fell months later.
Human nature is weak and she has become a slavedriver, after all. But he
is her only slave, and he hugs his bondage.
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