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JOCELYN 303

shadow, a man and a girl passed him leaning
towards each other. The deck quivered under
his feet with the beat of the screw. Something
stirred in him, something strenuous. He thought,
" Is it too late ? is there nothing in me ? nothing
for me to do ? "

The man and the girl passed again, he was
whispering to her, and she twisted a flower in
her hands. Memory came to Giles with the
scent from it. He shrank back. "Without
her ! O God ! " he thought, and pulled his cap
over his eyes.

He sat there long. The dancing ceased, but
people stayed on deck, waiting for the ship to
reach Ismaiha. The moon had risen, and the
lamps hung colourless in the white glory of her
light. The ship seemed to glide on a band
of silver between rolling steppes of snow, but
always the wind was the breath of the fiery desert.
On the main deck below, he could see steerage
passengers sleeping uneasily, tossing from side
to side with shirts open at the neck, patches of
grey on the white of the burnished ship. He
looked at his watch. It was twelve o'clock.
The ship idled along, slowing down now and



304 JOCELYN

then with a faint hissing sound, as the white
steam escaped from her sides into the whiter
air. With a feeHng of weary impatience he
resented the dragging motion — it was Hke his
life, where nothing ever happened — a desolate
and an empty waste of time.

He had a longing to get out of it, to get to
the end, to find something to do — something
incessant and exhausting, which day by day
would dull his feeling in sheer weariness. Pre-
sently he fell back again into his chair in the
shadow of the hurricane deck above, and dozed
off into an uneasy sleep. Through it he felt all
the time the silent plains of snow-white sand,
the dim flash of lights, the jar of the screw, the
hiss of steam, and the striking of the ship's
bell, mingled in a misty confusion with strange
words and shapes, the fantastic creatures of his
dreams. He woke up when the ship stopped at
Ismailia, heard the hurrying of feet, the cry of
voices giving orders, the prolonged blast of the
whistle ; then the jar of the screw began once
more under his feet, and he dozed again.



CHAPTER XXVIII

He woke from restless and bitter dreams, feel-
ing stiff and a little cold. The moon was sinking
in the sky, and only patches of white light fell
now upon the decks. He raised himself in his
chair to look about him. A woman was leaning
against the port bulwark looking out over the
desert. As his eyes fell upon her figure he
moved uneasily, and a shiver passed through his
limbs. She turned, and began to walk towards
him into the darkness of the shadow. His eyes
rested on her face — and he gasped. He thought
" I am dreaming."

She seemed like a tender vision of slumber
and of memory, stepping to him out of the
night. He rubbed his eyes, and got up very
gently from his chair. She stopped, and he
could see her lips quiver, she was so close to
him. He held out his hands silently — he was

afraid that at some word of his she would

30s u



3o6 JOCELYN

vanish, as she had come, into the night. She
took one step, and touched him — her hps
parted.

" I have come, you see," she said, and she
leaned against him. His arms were round her,
his face was buried in her hair, but no word
passed his Hps.

" I've come to do what you wish, after all.
I couldn't help it — something there" — ^and she
touched her chest with her hand — " there wasn't
any other place for me, you see."

She spoke like a tired child, and rubbed
her cheek softly against his shoulder. Then
suddenly she raised her face, tender and mys-
terious in the gloom, and kissed him on the
lips. Tears ran silently down his face, and she
kissed them. She raised her arms, drew his
head down to her breast, and held it there.
And, while they stood, the hot wind soughed
faintly above them ; once, the bell rang out two
sharp strokes, the cry of the watchman fled
weirdly into the night, and the ship slept again
to the hum of her screw and the bubble of the
silver water. And now great shadows stalked
along the cold sands, like the uneasy thoughts



JOCELYN 307

of a dream ; and sometimes a feeble cry would
speak to them out of the heart of the desert.

Giles raised his head at last, and holding her
fast in his arms whispered, " Tell me ! "

" I belong to you. I knew it when you
were gone. I belonged to you ever since — that
night." Her cheek was hot against his own,
and he could feel the beating of her heart.
" I will be your wife, darling ; I will do any-
thing you tell me, I won't ever hurt you
again."

He could only say, " 'Sh ! " and stroke her
face gently with his hand. He looked at it
under its little, soft grey cap, as it rested against
his shoulder. Her eyes glanced up at him,
large, and full of loving light, and then drooped
like a sleepy child's under their heavy lids. He
was dumb with the passion of tenderness which
filled him for the frail girl, who had come to
him from so far. How marvellously sweet to
him was every tiny trembling of her slender
body, every breath that came through her parted
lips ! How dear, every whisper of her voice !

He said in a husky voice : " How did you
come, my little one ? "



3o8 JOCELYN

She rested a hand on his chest, and pulled at
the button of his coat.

" I was afraid I shouldn't catch you, they told
me to come from Marseilles. I was very lucky,
there was a boat, and I came to Alexandria and
Cairo. When I got to Ismailia, I was just in
time ; I told my maid to ask if you were on
board, and then I came, and I'm so tired."

She dropped her head on his shoulder again
with a little sigh.

" I have come," she said, " and oh ! / love
you so."

His face quivered with a throbbing tender-
ness that was like pain. With each beat of his
heart the muffled footfall of the watch officer
sounded across and across the deck above ; and,
ghostly in the slanting light of the moon, some
dhows glided past in the tow of a tiny, puffing
launch. His arms closed round her till her
heart beat against him ; and a great shudder of
passion ran through his frame.

" By all the life in me, child," he said huskily,
" I will make up to you for the past — we will
wipe it out together."

She looked up at him, and for a moment her



JOCELYN 309

eyes seemed to brim over with the tenderness
in them, then they gazed at him, suddenly dark
and profound, out of a sad httle face. A tiny
wisp of her hair fell loose across her ear.

" Yes — if we can." Her voice, hushed and
uncertain, was like a prayer to Fate, but her
hand touched his cheek with soft fingers. " Who
knows ? "

The wind carried the whisper away into the
remoteness of the desert.



THE END



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.J. '^y



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