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Rome, older than anything but the sand. They flung thudding echoes briefly as horse and rider whirled by, carting the word of Ibrahim.
All this time the woman in the dark, blue veils had rested silent and still between the hands of Musa. She was only the word of the sheik made flesh. All this time Musa had not spoken with her. Presently, looking at the sun, he saw it to be at the zenith. He said:
"In a little while there will be rest."
She remained silent as before. Only by her warmth and supple participation in the horse's motion could he tell that she lived.
A single gigantic palm grew from the sand ahead, sole survivor of an old oasis. Under it was the white dome of a well that yet held a little water. The horse came here and stood. Musa swung down, and lifted the woman to the sand. He felt his horse's flanks, drew water, warmed it in the sun, then gave him to drink. He
drank himself, with thanks to the Compassionate; then gave the woman water, and she drank from a silver cup that she drew from her veils.
Musa saw her hand, with a silver ring on the thumb. He became aware of her as a personality for the first time. She was mystery; she had, in her dark shroudings, the cool and attraction of shadow. Another song came into his head:
I have seen antelope-does in the desert Drinking at dawn golden water from the bath of a dead queen,
And I have seen the young Night, In violet shintayan and silver anklets, drinking from a star.
He said to her:
"I would see thy face."
"Servant of Ibrahim," she answered, "it is only the face of a slave."
She had seated herself under the palm-tree, and was sifting from hand to hand such fine threads of red sand as men use to measure time in a glass. Musa looked at her. He would not show her his curiosity. He said gravely:
"It must be a fair face to make your tongue so bold."
"It is only the tongue of a slave." Musa said shrewdly:
"But I think it was not so always. How long since thou was a free woman?"
"A long time. And thou? How long since thou wast a free man?”
Musa's eyes burned at the insult. He trembled with rage. Then he remembered and laughed.
"A long time." Melancholy of his race, as bitter as the desert, descended on him. "A long time since I was little lord of one tent."
Soon they were rested, and the horse
"I count this death, though I am a slave."
Presently Musa said slowly:
"I am glad I have not seen thy face, for it comes to me that if I had seen it, by the grave of the prophet, it would be hard to unveil it before others."
"It is the will of Ibrahim." "It is the will of Ibrahim," assented Musa, grimly, "but not mine, O Arissa." They rode on.
The sun was burning in his eyes. He saw the land as a flame of gold, and nothing else until the woman turned and touched his arm.
"What is it?"
the word of Ibrahim to go unsaid." Five armed horsemen were galloping over the ridge of a sand-hill toward Musa. Since they were not any of Ibrahim's men, they must be enemies of Ibrahim. Two had far outstripped the rest. Musa smiled fiercely, and checked a little his horse.
One rider, a young man on a bay, with green velvet saddle-bags, was in the lead of all. He came straight at Musa, who seemed to wait for him as if in doubt. Then at the right moment Musa swung the woman down. Her feet took the sand lightly; she stood like a still shadow in her veils. Musa lifted himself in his stirrups; with a yell, in one electric instant, he fired with his will the will of the sandred horse. The beast responded with a leap like that of a leopard. Together as one fierce creature they swept down to meet the other rider.
It seemed they must crash together. But while they were yet a hand's
"There are some who would like breadth apart, Musa swerved, passing
the other closely in full flight. As he passed his sword flashed from under his burnoose; once. The young man tossed his arms, cried shrilly upon God, and pitched redly into the sand.
Musa turned to ride back to Arissa, to meet the attack of the second horse
But the second, seeing the fate of the first, had not followed. Instead, he had swooped like a hawk on the woman. Musa saw him stoop from the saddle at a flying gallop and snatch her up. He looked back at Musa, yelling, and put his horse to the slope down which he had just ridden, down which the other three riders were rushing to meet him.
Musa was swept as if by flame. He crouched low on the neck of the red horse, crying him on the chase. No scourge or spur he used but the scourge of his wild spirit, the spur of his untamed heart. As kin to kin, the horse answered. They followed Arissa. And to follow her seemed to be following death, for the men would be four to one.
"Allah!" cries Musa, suddenly.
The slave-woman had been clinging to the man who had taken her as to a deliverer. Now Musa saw her shake herself free and fall, or throw herself, from the horse. She rolled over and over in the sand. The rider was swinging strangely in the saddle; the horse faltered, swerved this way and that, as though hands only half-conscious sawed at his bit. He was now running in circles. Low and lower sagged his rider. The horse plunged, stopped. It was a dead man who slid from that stained saddle and lay on the desert. The horse stood over him, gazing with wild, large eyes at Musa. Between him and Musa Arissa had
risen from the sand and was running toward Musa.
At utmost speed Musa swept down upon her. He circled her in his flight, without a word, leaning low with outcurved arm. And like a bird she seemed to rise, to cast herself into that arm. He raised her until she rested, pressed against his side and thigh. Never had he so rejoiced in his strength as then. They fled westward. Behind them lay the two dead, the two riderless horses; and in an hour all pursuit had died away.
Then Musa pulled in the horse; he settled Arissa in her old place. His sinewy hands shook as he touched her and felt her warm and throbbing under her veils. He said in a low voice:
"That was the stroke of a free woman!"
She answered, with a fierce laugh: "It was his own dagger killed him." "Perhaps he would have freed you. At least he would have freed you from the will of Ibrahim, and from me. Thought you of that?"
There was no answer. burned. Happiness as savage and sudden as the desert's death rose in him. Swiftly must the desert-children lay hold of happiness, eagerly must they drink of the wells by the way. Arissa said more timidly than he had ever heard her speak:
"Where now, Servant of Ibrahim?" "To the City of Sweet Grapes. To fulfil all the will of Ibrahim.”
She lay dumb and passive between his hands. They rode westwardwestward into the furnace of the sinking sun.
They came to the City of Sweet Grapes while the women yet drew water from its wells; but the gates were closed. Musa beat on them with
the hilt of his sword, and an old watchman looked from the wicket. Seeing Musa, he said:
"Whose man are you, and is the word peace or war?"
"I am from Ibrahim ibn Zohair, lord of twenty deserts and of a thousand and three sweet wells; the word is from him, and it is a word of war."
So they opened the gates with fear. And Musa paced in, and rode between thickening crowd to the market-place. The people pressed about him, but they were silent; for they saw his face and the darkened sword in his hand, and they were afraid. All the narrow ways of the city were full of the sunsetting, and it bathed Musa in fire. It seemed that he rode through the bazaars wrapped in a golden cloak, on a golden horse, bearing the young night on his saddle-bow.
Musa drew rein by the stand in the market-place where the slaves were sold. All round little booths full of sweet grapes in trays made the air thick with a smell of wine. When the place was packed with the men of the city, Musa said:
"Hear the word of Ibrahim, lord of the desert, of the cities of the desert, and of one thousand and three sweet wells."
Musa looked down at them.
"Hear," he said again, "as is the will of Ibrahim, the sheik; but hear with your faces covered."
They gazed up at him. He raised He raised himself high in the stirrups, a man of burning gold on a great gold horse. High he lifted his sword, and that was darkened. High he lifted his voice:
"Cover your eyes!" he cried fiercely, "and hear in darkness! Who looks into the light dies by this sword!"
In a great silence the men of that city covered their eyes with their wide sleeves or the corner of a burnoose.
Then Musa set Arissa high before him on the saddle. She had her back to him, her face was to the marketplace. And he reached over her shoulder and drew aside her veils, uncovering her in the light of day; but there was no eye to see, nor did Musa himself see her.
Then he gave the word of Ibrahim.
"As this woman is shamed before you, so am I shamed in the eyes of the desert." But no man saw Arissa's shame, and presently Musa laughed scornfully. "Go," he said; "gather your spears for the service of the slavemaker!"
The sun sank. A great wave of crimson strode over the desert. Musa, riding through the hushed bazaars, rode like a man of blood on a blood-red horse. None spoke to him. In silence he paced out of the gates, holding the slave-woman hard against his breast. The gates shut behind him. The color died from the sky; the desert was hidden in manifold veils of deep blue, like Arissa's. He set the horse to speed again. They went steadily westward. The air on their lips was now water, now fire, but always desire. After a long while the woman spoke in a very low voice:
"Lord, what now?"
As if he were singing, Musa replies:
"The command of Ibn Zohair, lord of the desert, 'After the woman has been unveiled in the market-place of the City of Sweet Grapes, and the word I gave has been spoken, go thou west until the stars show thee a tomb under an oasis of acacia-trees. thou shalt find the next rider who will carry that word.' I go to obey the