New York, months later.
Spring had long departed the
spring of the year in which the Eagle of the Air had
flung itself aloft from the Palisades, freighted with
such vast hopes.
Summer was past and gone. The
sparkling wine of autumn had already begun to bubble
in the cup of the year.
Sunset, as when this tale began.
Sunset, bronzing the observatory of Niss’rosh,
on top of the huge skyscraper.
Two of the Legionaries a
woman and a man were watching that sunset
from the western windows of that room where first had
been conceived the wonder-flight which had spelled
death for so many a stout heart.
You could see great changes had come
upon the man, as he paced slowly up and down the singular
room, hands deep in the pockets of his riding-trousers.
His hair was grayer, for one thing, his face leaner;
a certain sinewy strength had come to him that had
not been there before.
Some marks of suffering still remained
on him, that not all of life could take away.
His eyes looked deeper and more wise, his mouth more
human in its smile. That he had learned to smile,
at all, meant much. And the look in his eyes,
as he glanced at the woman, meant vastly more.
Yes, this man had learned infinitely much.
From a big, bamboo Chinese chair the
woman was watching him.
Her eyes were musing, reminiscent.
Her riding-costume well became her; and by the flush
on her cheek you might have guessed they had both
just come in from a long gallop together.
The costume gave her a kind of boyish
charm; yet she remained entirely feminine. A
kind of bronze mist seemed to envelop her head, as
the dull-tawny sunset light fell on her from those
broad windows. Near her riding-crop stood a Hindu
incense-holder, with joss-sticks burning. As
she took one of these and twirled it contemplatively,
the blue-gray vapor spiraling upward was no more dreamy
than her eyes.
“The invincible Orient!”
she said, all at once. “It absorbs everything
and gives back nothing. And we thought, we hoped,
we might conquer part of it! Well no that’s
The man stopped his slow pacing, sat
on the edge of the table and drummed with his fingers
on the teak.
“Not at the first attempt, anyhow,”
said he, after a little thought. “I think,
though, another time but there’s no
use dreaming. Of course, it’s not the treasure
I’m thinking about. That was just a detail.
It’s the men. Good men!”
She peered into the incense-smoke,
as if exorcising the powers of darkness.
“They’re not dead, not
all of them!” she exclaimed with conviction.
“I wish I could believe you!”
“But you must believe
me! Something tells me some of our good chaps
are still alive. All of them perhaps.”
“Impossible!” He shook
his head. “Even if they escaped the explosion,
the Jannati Shahr devils must have massacred them.”
He shuddered slightly. “That’s the
worst of it. Death is all right. But the
crucifixion, and all ”
“Cold reason paints a cruel
picture, I admit,” the woman answered, laying
a hand on the man’s. “But you know a
woman’s intuition. I don’t believe
as you do. And the major and that rumor
we got from old Nasr ed Din, the Hejaz rug-merchant
down on Hester Street, how about that?”
“Yes, I know. But ”
“How could a rumor like that
come through, about a big, white-skinned, red-haired
Ajam slave held by that tribe near Jeddah?
How could it, unless there were some truth back of
“He wandered away into the desert,
quite insane. It’s not impossible he might
have been captured. By Allah!” And the man
struck the table hard. “If I really believed
Nasr ed Din ”
“I’d go again, if I died for it!”
“The pronoun’s wrong. We’d
“Yes, we!” He took
her hand. “We’d trail that rumor down
and have Bohannan out of there, and the others too,
if but no, no, the thing’s impossible!”
“Nothing is impossible, I tell
you, in the East. And haven’t we had miracles
enough? After we were judged pirates and condemned
to die, by the International Aero Tribunal, wasn’t
it a miracle about that pardon? That immunity,
for your vibratory secrets that have revolutionized
the defensive tactics of the League’s air-forces?”
She smiled up at him, through the
vapor. “It’s the impossible that
happens, these days! The soul within me tells
me some of our chaps are still alive, out there!”
She waved her smoky wand toward the
large-scale map of Arabia on the wall.
“But Rrisa,” said he.
“About the others, there’s no sense of
guilt. I feel, though, like a murderer about
“Rrisa still lives!”
He shook his head.
“The incense tells me.” She insisted.
“My heart tells me!”
“Allah make it so! But
even if he is dead, he died like the others a
“In pursuit of an ideal. We all had that,
a dream and an ideal.”
“Yes. It wasn’t the
treasure, of course,” he mused. “It
wasn’t material things. It was adventure.
Well you and I have had that, at all events.
And they had it too. They and we all
of us we changed the course of history
for more than two hundred million human beings.
And as for you and me ”
He turned, looking at the map.
Then he got up from the table, went to that map and
laid a hand on the vast, blank expanse across which
was printed only “Ruba el Khali” the
“It would wreck the whole structure
of civilization if we told,” said he. The
woman put back the incense-stick into its holder, got
up and came to stand beside him. “Imagine
the horrible, vulture-like scramble of capitalism
to exploit that dyke of gold! There’d be
expeditions, pools, combines, wars we’d
have the blood of uncounted thousands on our heads!
“It’s not the treacherous
El Barr people I’m thinking of. If they
perished, as they would to the last man defending their
gold, all well and good. But in case any of our
men are still alive there, they’d be
butchered. And then, the destruction of gold as
a medium of exchange, by its gross plenty, would wreck
the world with panics. And the greatest catastrophe
of history would lie on our shoulders. That is
“Why the secret must remain
here,” she said, touching her breast.
“But!” he exclaimed,
and turned and took a pencil from the table.
In a bold hand he wrote, across the
blank white spaces of the map, these characters in
“Nac’hna arivna!” he exclaimed.
A long silence followed. Both,
with deep memories, were peering at those words, as
the light slowly faded in the west over the Palisades.
The man was first to speak.
“This secret is ours,”
said he. “I have another, that even you
“You have kept something from me?”
“Only until I have quite dared tell you.”
“It isn’t the mere, simple
thing itself. It’s the symbolism back of
it. Maybe even now I’m premature in telling
you. But, somehow ”
He hesitated. This man of action,
hard, determined, strong, seemed afraid.
“Somehow,” he added, “you
and I-have come so near to each other-and tonight,
here in this room where it all started, we have seemed
to understand each other so well, through the revocation
of the past, that yes, I’ll show
He thrust a hand into his breast-pocket
and brought out a small leather sack. Startled,
she looked at it as he drew open the cord. He
took from the sack a wondrous thing, luminous with
“The Great Pearl Star,” she cried.
“Kaukab el Durri!”
“Yes, the Great Pearl Star, itself!”
She looked in silence. Then she
reached out a hand and touched it, as if unbelieving.
“Why, you never told me!”
“I had a reason.”
“And through all
that inferno, when every ounce had to be considered ”
“I was keeping this for you.”
There were tears in her eyes as he laid a hand on
“For you,” he repeated.
“It was mine, but it is mine no longer.
This crown-jewel of Islam is yours, now if
you will have it.”
“If I will have it!” she
whispered. “There’s only one thing
in this whole world I more dearly long for!”
“I am offering you that, too,”
said the man, in a trembling voice. “I
knew nothing of it, nothing whatever, until I came
to understand what a woman really could be. I
fought against it and lost.
“It came to me not sought after
and welcomed, but storming over the ramparts of my
soul. Yes, I fought love and lost.”
“I understand that, too,” she said.
“I put the Great Pearl Star
in my breast, sacred to you. I said to myself:
’If we ever live through this, and I feel worthy
to give this gem to her, I’ll ask her to complete
“To complete it?”
“Yes. You see, one pearl
was missing. The most wonderful of all. Now,
as I clasp this necklace round your throat, the Great
Pearl Star is completed.”
“I don’t understand ”
“Ah, but I do! The
missing pearl of great price-you are that pearl.
In giving the Great Pearl Star to you, I make it whole.”
“And I give it back to you, completed!”
Her head lay on his heart. His lips were on her
“Completion,” he whispered.
“Peace, to the troubled heart. Peace, after
the night that life has been to me. Peace, till
she said, in the line of the ancient Arabic poem. “’Peace,
until the coming of the stars.’”
he breathed. “‘It is peace until the rising
of the day!’”