Puslapio vaizdai

in light summer garments, unearthed from the bottom of their trunks coats and wraps and spent a great deal of time grumbling good-naturedly about the chill of an African spring. Finally the wind abated and we motored to Sidi-Okba. It lies thirteen miles beyond Biskra, in the desert, a little brown village in the center of an oasis of 60,000 magnificent palm-trees.

When we entered the village our car was followed by a crowd of men and children, running, screaming, gesticulating. In the clamor about us, we could distinguish a few French sentences bellowed from the thick lips of a man in a ragged burnoose. "I am the only honest, reliable guide; I am the only authorized guide. See, here is my paper. Look at it -look at it." He jumped on the steps of the car, and thrusting a dirty bit of paper under our noses, began at the same time fiercely to berate the crowd in Arabic. From that moment he took command of


[ocr errors]

We were approaching the market: 'Arrêtez," he shrieked. "Arrêtez." And we did. He jumped down and imperiously waved the clamoring crowd back. "Descendez," he ordered. Again we obeyed, while he pushed, punched, and belabored those who came near us. He was assisted in this task by a little pock-marked man who called himself a gendarme and who appointed two Arabs to guard our car.

We entered a long narrow street which led round to the market. Absurd little shops not much larger than a cupboard were on each side and contained for the most part comestibles. One basket held a quantity of dried locusts. When we inquired what uses those dead insects were put to, our guide replied by seizing a particularly large and hideous locust and crunching it contentedly between his teeth. One shop was in charge of a stalwart old Arab who did not raise his eyes from the Koran he was studying, to cast a glance at us. In another shop sat a man diligently stitching a white burnoose on an American sewing-machine. An Arab treading a sewing-machine in an oasis in the desert of Sahara is not, I apprehend, what Western eyes are prepared to encounter.

In the midst of the human pandemonium of the market, camels were kneeling

in the glare of the sun serenely_chewing the cud, or roaring plaintively. From this noisy scene we turned to visit the mosque where lie the saintly bones of Okba-benNafi, or as he is more generally called, Sidi-Okba, and spent the remainder of our time enjoying the view from the minaret. After that, our guide dismissed us and we returned to Biskra in a sand-storm, muffled to our chins in furs.

The following morning we bade a reluctant farewell to Biskra. I have but a confused memory of that day's ride, which began at nine and ended a little after five in the evening. This confusion is because of the profound impression made upon me by Timgad. It stands to-day in my mind as the most interesting, the most touching, and most fascinating place in North Africa. Politically, Timgad was of little importance in the Roman world; few historians have made even a passing reference to her existence. So it happened that we approached Timgad with chattering teeth and an amiable indifference to her charms, and that we left her-despite the coldwith burning regret. Thamugadi, the Romans called the city, founded in the year 100, in the reign of the Emperor Trajan. She lies now a ruined white dream city, alone in the center of a vast plateau, facing the Aures mountains. The theater, back of the forum, is set against a small hill. Over three thousand people could be seated at the play. The orchestra is in a fair state of preservation, also the colonnade of the portico, but the stage has entirely disappeared.

At the extreme end of one of two intersecting avenues stands Trajan's Arch. It was formerly the main entrance to Timgad. Beyond it stretched a great stonepaved highway to Lambessa, the headquarters of the Third Augustan Legion. The soldiers of this famous legion were the architects and builders of the city.

Our next objective point was Tebessa, but owing to the inclemency of the weather we did not stop, and hurried on to Batna, with wide, clean streets, and wellbuilt houses. built houses. We went to Constantine the next morning, motoring over a rolling. country bare of trees but rich in fine grazing-grounds.

(To be concluded)

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]




Author of "The House of Mirth," "The Letters," etc.

LEILA had come and gond not lasted as

and they had had their talk. It had long as either of them wished, for in the middle of it Leila had been summoned to the telephone to receive an important. message from town, and had sent her maid to tell Mrs. Lidcote that she could n't come back just then, as one of the young ladies had been called away unexpectedly and arrangements had to be made for her departure. But the mother and daughter had had almost an hour together, and Mrs. Lidcote was happy. She had never seen Leila so tender, so solicitous. The only thing that troubled her was, indeed, the very excess of this solicitude, the exaggerated expression of her daughter's annoyance that their first moments together should have been marred by the presence of strangers.

"Not strangers to me, darling, since they 're friends of yours," her mother had assured her.

"Yes; but I know your feeling, you queer, wild mother. I know how you 've always hated people." (Hated people! Had Leila forgotten why?) "And that's why I told Susy that if you preferred to go with her to Ridgefield on Sunday, I

should so perfectly understand, should so patiently wait for our good hug. But you did n't really mind them at luncheon, did you, dearest?"

Mrs. Lidcote, at that, had suddenly thrown a long, startled look at her daughter. "I don't mind things of that kind any longer," she had simply answered.

"But that does n't console me for having exposed you to the bother of it, for having let you come here when I ought to have ordered you off to Ridgefield with Susy. If Susy had n't been stupid, she 'd have made you go there with her. I hate to think of you up here all alone."

Again Mrs. Lidcote tried to read something more than a rather obtuse devotion in her daughter's radiant gaze. "I'm glad to have had a rest this afternoon, dear; and later--"

"Oh, yes, later, when all this fuss is over, we 'll more than make up for it, sha'n't we, you precious darling?" And at this point Leila had been summoned to the telephone, leaving Mrs. Lidcote alone with her conjectures.

These were still floating before her in cloudy imprecision when Miss Suffern's tap on the door roused her to the lapse of time.

"You 've come to take me down to tea? I'd forgotten how late it was," she said.

Miss Suffern, a plump, peering little woman, with prim hair and a conciliatory smile, nervously adjusted, as she came in, the pendant bugles of her oddly elaborate black dress. Miss Suffern was always in mourning, and always commemorating the demise of distant relatives by wearing the discarded wardrobe of their next of kin. "It is n't exactly mourning," she would say; "but it's the only stitch of black poor Julia had-and of course George was only my mother's step-cousin."

As she came forward, Mrs. Lidcote found herself humorously wondering whether she were mourning Horace Pursh's divorce in one of his mother's old black satins.

"Oh, did you mean to go down?" Susy Suffern peered at her, a little fluttered. "Leila sent me up to keep you company. She thought it would be cozier for you to have tea here. She was afraid you were feeling rather tired."

"I was; but I've had the whole afternoon to rest in. And this wonderful sofa to help me."

"Leila told me to tell you that she 'd rush up for a minute before dinner, after everybody had arrived; but the train is always dreadfully late. She's in despair at not giving you a sitting-room; she wanted to know if I thought you really minded."

"Of course I don't mind. It's not like Leila to think I should." Mrs. Lidcote drew aside to make way for the housemaid, who appeared in the doorway, bearing a table spread with a studied variety of teacakes.

"Leila saw to it herself," Miss Suffern murmured as the door closed on the housemaid's efficient figure. "Her one idea is that you should feel happy here."

It struck Mrs. Lidcote as one more mark of the subverted state of things that her daughter's solicitude should find expression in the tenuity of sandwiches and the piping-hotness of muffins; but then everything that had happened since her arrival seemed to increase her confusion.

The note of a motor-horn down the drive gave another turn to her thoughts. "Are those the new arrivals already?" she asked.

[ocr errors]

"Oh, dear, no; they won't be here till after seven." Miss Suffern craned her head from the window to catch a glimpse of the motor. "It must be Charlotte leaving."

"Was it the little Wynn girl who was called away in a hurry just now? I hope it's not on account of illness."

"Oh, no; I believe there was some mistake about dates. Her mother telephoned her that she was expected at the Stepleys, at Fishkill, and she had to be rushed over to Albany to catch a train." Mrs. Lidcote meditated. "I'm sorry. She's a charming young thing. I hoped I should have another talk with her this evening after dinner."

"Yes; it's too bad." Miss Suffern's gaze grew vague. "You do look tired, you know," she continued, seating herself at the tea-table and preparing to dispense its delicacies. "You must go straight back to your sofa and let me wait on you. The excitement has told on you more than you think, and you must n't fight against it any longer. Just stay quietly up here and let yourself go. You'll have Leila to yourself on Monday."

Mrs. Lidcote received the the tea-cup which her cousin proffered, but showed no other disposition to obey her injunctions. For a moment she stirred her tea in silence; then she asked, "Is it your idea that I should stay quietly up here till Monday?"

Miss Suffern set down her own cup with a gesture so sudden that it endangered an adjacent plate of scones. When she had assured herself of the safety of the scones, she looked up with a fluttered laugh. "Perhaps, dear, by to-morrow you'll be feeling differently. The air here, you know

[ocr errors]

"Yes, I know." Mrs. Lidcote bent forward to help herself to a scone. "Who 's arriving this evening?" she then inquired.

Miss Suffern frowned and peered. "You know my wretched head for names. Leila told me, of course-but there are so many-"

"So many? She did n't tell me she expected a big party."

"Oh, not big: but rather outside of her little group. And of course, as it's the first time, she 's a little excited at having the older set."

« AnkstesnisTęsti »