It was not until their rest at sundown
that anything of unusual interest happened to the
travellers. Their short halt while they drank
their tea had passed without incident in
fact, Millicent had drunk hers alone on camel-back,
for it had been carried in thermos flasks, their Amon-Ra,
as Hassan called the magic bottles whose contents
retained the heat with no obvious aid.
Michael had spent the time, while
he drank his refreshing cup, in consulting Abdul about
their route. The camels were not unsaddled.
About this Millicent made no demur. She saw no
earthly reason why they should not have rested for
as long as they felt inclined, but she did not say
so. If this treasure which Michael sought had
lain in its safe hiding-place, out of sight of man,
for more than two thousand years, why should it not
wait there in safety for another couple or so of hours?
This she kept to herself; it was her wise policy to
remain douce comme un lapin blanc, which she
did. The night might still see her an accepted
part of Michael’s cavalcade. The adventure
thrilled her with excitement.
They had finished their evening meal,
which Millicent had supplied a very satisfying
and delicate dinner. They had eaten it in the
open desert during the cool hours which precede sundown.
Michael had thoroughly enjoyed it. The evening
light transformed the desert; a heavenly Jerusalem
seemed very near. Even Millicent was obedient
to the unseen.
As the sun sank lower and lower in
the heavens, their conversation drifted towards the
subject of Akhnaton’s Aton worship. The
kneeling figures of the Arabs, praying in the desert
before sundown, had introduced the topic.
They sat on until the globe of gold
dropped behind the horizon a wonderful
sight in the desert. For a minute or two its
sudden and complete disappearance leaves the world
chill and desolate; a cold hand clutches at the human
heart; a loneliness enters the soul. God has
abandoned the world; the warmth of His love becomes
The afterglow was at its most flamboyant;
its orange and yellow, streaked with black, suddenly
became vermilion. Lights from the underworld
struck across the desert like swords of fire; arms
of flame broke the vermilion, soaring to heaven like
the fires from hell’s furnace let loose.
The anger and beauty and recklessness was appalling.
Then with magic swiftness, during the flickering of
an eye, the horizon became one vast lake of sacrificial
The transition was so unexpected,
so devastating to the human mind, that fear filled
Millicent’s heart. Instinctively she had
drawn a little closer to Michael. She craved
for arms to guard her, to protect her from the terror
of the heavens.
Like a black silhouette against the
lake of blood, a human figure rose up out of the desert,
a John the Baptist, “a burning and shining light,”
a voice calling in the wilderness.
As the sonorous words of the Koran
were borne to them, Millicent said, “Oh, Mike,
it’s my holy man! How mysterious he looks
against that wonderful sky!”
Subconsciously Michael had been so
grateful to Millicent for her silence during the stupendous
glory of the sunset that his heart was full of gentleness
“Yes,” he said.
“I see him.” Something had told him
that the figure which she had described to him during
luncheon would appear again; he was not surprised
when he distinguished the staff, with its tattered
rags waving against the crimson light.
“Isn’t it all wonderful,
Mike!” Her voice was reverent; the awfulness
of the heavens had humbled her. “I was
almost afraid it seemed like the end of
the world, the sky seemed all on fire. The destruction
of the world had begun.”
“’Thy setting is beautiful,
O living Aton, who guidest all countries that they
may make laudation at thy dawning and at thy setting.’”
“Are those Akhnaton’s words?”
“Yes, and his constant song
was, ‘O Lord, how manifold are Thy works.’
Most surely he would have said so to-night.”
Michael’s thoughts flew to the morning at whose
dawn he had first recited to Margaret Akhnaton’s
hymn to the rising sun.
Millicent did not guess that Margaret
was present while they stood together in silence,
watching the blood tones grow fainter and fainter.
As they stood looking towards the
horizon until all violence had left the heavens, the
desert figure drew nearer. Millicent knew him
by his long, unkempt hair. Even at a distance
his fine white teeth gleamed against his tanned skin.
“He’s a mere skeleton,”
Millicent said. “Look at him! He’s
all eyes and hair and teeth!”
“Poor creature!” Michael
said. “He has certainly no flesh left
As they spoke, the fanatic suddenly
tottered, strode forward and fell, face downwards,
on the sand of the desert. Instinctively Michael
hurried forward to his assistance. There was
little doubt but that he was famished and exhausted
for want of food; the distances between desert villages
“Don’t go!” Millicent
cried. “Don’t, Mike! He’s
probably filthy and crawling with vermin; he looked
awful this morning. I’ll send two of my
men to him and I’ll tell Hassan to prepare some
food for him. Hassan! Hassan!” Her
voice was clear and far-reaching.
Abdul instantly appeared. Hassan
was busy giving orders to the men for pitching the
tents. So quickly did Abdul come that he might
have sprung up out of the desert at her very feet.
This immediate response to her call always made Millicent
suspicious of eavesdropping.
“Abdul,” she said, “the
holy man we met this morning is ill. Tell the
bearers to go to him don’t let the
Effendi touch him, Hassan.”
“Aiwah, Sitt, I will
attend.” With the same breath Abdul screamed
for two of the men to come and help the saint.
They came with flying leaps towards him.
“Mike, oh Mike!” Millicent
cried. “Please, please come back!
You are so rash. Abdul, don’t let the
Effendi touch that man. He’s filthy.
I saw him this morning he’s a dreadful
Abdul looked at the Effendi Amory’s
mistress, the Christian harlot. Such a woman
dared to speak in this manner of one who was favoured
of God, a blessed saint, of one to whom the devout
women of his country would willingly give themselves
as an act of grace! This child of God, beloved
of Islam, was filthy in her vile eyes!
It was in this manner that Millicent
unconsciously earned the vengeance of Abdul.
Nothing of his hatred or scorn was noticeable.
Millicent was under the impression that all Easterns
are sensualists and slaves to beauty; she was ignorant
of their profound contempt for all women; that their
vilest thoughts are for Christians. With an outward
approval of her anxiety that Michael should run no
risks by touching the sick man, Abdul left her and
hurried after the Effendi.
But Michael had already reached him;
the fleshless figure lay bathed in the dying light
of the afterglow. Hanging round his neck, a neck
which looked like the neck of the dried mummy in Freddy’s
wonderful tomb, there were many strings of cheap beads,
and suspended from a bright green cord the
Prophet’s green was one white cowrie
shell. Half covered by his garment of many colours,
and jealously enclosed in a small black cloth bag,
was the most precious article of his scanty possessions.
Michael knew that this pouch contained nothing less
valuable than a few grains of sand from the Prophet’s
tomb at Mecca.
At Michael’s approach the fanatic
raised himself and recited in half-delirious tones
the Fat’hah, or the opening chapter of
“In the Name of God, the Merciful,
the Gracious. Praise be unto God, the Lord of
the worlds, the Merciful, the Gracious, the Ruler of
the day of judgment. Thee do we worship, and
of Thee do we beg assistance. Direct us in the
right way, in the way of those to whom Thou hast been
gracious, upon whom there is no wrath, and who have
When the sura was finished
the man fell back; his strength failed him.
Michael knelt down beside him in the desert.
He raised his head; his wild eyes and emaciated face
touched his heart. He knew something of the
zeal of these religious Moslems, these desert sons
of Allah. This man had obviously wasted himself
to a skeleton. Truly, his reasoning powers were
in heaven; his religious ecstasies had well-nigh bereft
him of his senses.
Michael asked him if he was ill or
if he was only faint from want of food. The
saint did not know; physical exhaustion overpowered
him. At intervals he called loudly upon the
name of Allah, in almost the same phraseology as the
ancient Egyptians called upon Amon-Ra, the Lord of
all worlds, whose seat was in the heavens. In
the unchanging East, expressions never die.
Akhnaton taught his disciples to pray to “Our
Father, which art in Heaven.”
As Michael listened to his appeals
to Allah, he felt totally at a loss to know what to
do for the material benefit of the zealot. He
was afraid that he would die from exhaustion.
He was relieved when Abdul and the bearers came to
his assistance. Abdul soon persuaded the man
to drink some of the water which he had brought in
a cup. As he did so, he noticed with satisfaction
that the saint’s head was resting on Michael’s
arm, that his master was totally self-forgetful in
his act of charity. Christian though he was,
he was sincerely obeying the teaching of the Prophet
Jesus, the one sinless Prophet of Islam, the Prophet
Who, next to Mohammed, is best beloved of the faithful.
Mohammed considered Jesus sinless; to his own unrighteousness
he often alluded. In this act of grace, at least,
the Effendi had not failed Him.
When Michael offered the man another
cooling drink, he swallowed it eagerly. It was
like the waters of paradise to his parched throat.
His flaming eyes tried to express his gratitude to
his deliverer. Who was this heretic whose fingers
had the gift of healing, from whose heart flowed the
divine waters of charity?
Michael understood. Inspired
by the love in his heart for all suffering humanity,
with something akin to the graceful imagery of words
which comes naturally to the humblest native’s
lips, he spoke to the man in a suitable manner.
Rendered into English it would sound absurd.
The servants appeared with some food
which was sustaining and appetizing, but the effort
necessary for swallowing anything solid proved too
much for the exhausted pilgrim.
“Bring him to the camp, Abdul,”
Michael said. “I will give him some brandy.
As a medicine it is not forbidden?”
“No, Effendi, it is not forbidden.”
The total absence of the sun had made
the desert seem inhospitable and dreary. The
saint was too weak to protest and so he was carried
to the camp. Millicent watched the slow procession
with anger and amazement. She knew that Michael
was rash and impetuous, but she had not given him
credit for being such a fool.
While he was being put to bed in a
tent, and carefully attended to, Michael tried to
discover if the saint was really ill, if he was suffering
from some specific malady, or if he was merely worn
out with fatigue. He administered a drug to
him which he hoped would soothe his nerves and allow
him to sleep.
In a dog-like manner the man’s
tragic eyes eloquently expressed both his astonishment
and gratitude. It was long since he had slept
in a comfortable bed, under sheets and blankets.
He rarely spoke, except to mutter or loudly chant
in a half-delirious manner suras from the Koran.
When Michael had attended to his simple
wants and seen to it that his servants were not only
willing but eager to nurse him, he left him to their
care and immediately hurried off to his own tent to
change his clothes and disinfect himself as thoroughly
as possible a necessary precaution, although
the man had not been as dirty as Millicent had depicted.
His dilk, or Joseph’s coat, was indeed
tattered and his turban in the last stages of decay,
but they were clean. His person was not offensive.
A pathetic figure, fleshless and worn and neurotic;
yet in the sands of the desert he had performed his
ablutions before prayer, as prescribed by the Prophet
in the Holy Book. The untrodden sands of the
desert are as cleansing and purifying as the waters
When Michael at last returned to Millicent,
she said quite gently, although her inward woman burned
with anger, “Mike, are you mad or a saint?
How could you touch him?”
“I’m far from being a saint!” he
“You are as much one as that
wretched creature, who has pretended he is one for
so long that he now believes he is.”
“Or his Moslem brethren do, perhaps you mean!”
“Well, he acts up to their superstitious ideas.”
“I can’t tell. He
is too ill to speak. He is probably as sincere
a Moslem as St. Jerome was a Christian why
“What’s the matter with
him?” A little fear clutched at Millicent’s
“I don’t know Abdul
couldn’t discover. The man is too exhausted
to talk. I’ll speak to him in the morning
and find out.”
“I hope it’s nothing infectious you
were very rash, Mike!”
“It’s probably only physical
exhaustion. He couldn’t eat anything, but
he drank the water I gave him. I poured a little
brandy in it he wouldn’t have touched
it if he had known.”
“Oh, wouldn’t he?”
Millicent’s voice expressed her disbelief.
“The Koran forbids the drinking of spirits.”
Millicent laughed. “You
wouldn’t think so when you pass the native cafes
in Cairo! I thought you said they lived up to
the letter of their religion, and missed the spiritual
essence of it?”
“There are Moslems and Moslems.
Do we all live up to the spirit of Christ’s
teachings? Have you always seen Christ-like Christians?”
Millicent shrugged her shoulders.
“Well, I don’t pretend to live up to
the spirit of my religion. There’s the
comforting reflection of a death-bed repentance for
all Christians it’s never to late
to mend, Mike!”
“What about battle and murder and sudden death?”
“I take that risk. But,
honestly, dear, are you going to adopt that fanatic,
take him on with you?”
“I’m going to look after
him until he’s better,” Michael said, “if
that’s what you mean.”
“You’ve got one protege
in el-Azhar. I wonder where this one will find
“He will be all right in the
morning. Some food and sleep will set him on
his way again.” Michael’s eyes expressed
the fact that his thoughts had travelled to Millicent’s
own position in his camp. She had wished to
avoid this; she had tried to obliterate her own personality.
Her desire was to let Mike get pleasantly accustomed
to her companionship, to her place in his camp, to
her harmless presence. She felt certain that
if she could manage it for a day or two, he would let
things slide. It was his nature to drift.
The evening was almost at its close;
night was drawing near. The evening star, with
its one clear call, had appeared in the pale sky,
guarded by the soft pure crescent of a new moon.
The single star in the vast heavens made a tender
appeal to the hearts of both Millicent and Michael.
It intensified their solitude. It touched their
senses with longing. If Margaret had been with
Michael, his arms would have encircled her.
Millicent owed her self-restraint
to her calculating common sense. To have had
a lover on such a night as this would have been a splendid
reward for all her trouble. In her heart she
called the man at her side a fool, a pitiful fool,
and herself an idiot for loving him.
“It was a beautiful idea for
Mohammed’s banner,” Michael said at length.
He had driven the thought even of Margaret from his
mind. Suggestion is too potent a drug.
“Was that what he took it from?”
Millicent said. “I never thought of it
before of course, it must have been.”
“He must often have watched
the evening star as we are watching it now, when he
was a boy living in the desert. Later on, when
he became the warrior prophet, he must have visualized
the heavens as the background of his banner, and taken
the evening star and the crescent moon as his symbols the
star and the crescent of Islam.” Michael
paused. “In the same way, the full rays
of the sun became the symbol of Aton, Akhnaton’s
god and loving father.”
“Your friend?” Millicent
said eagerly; it pleased her that Michael should speak
of the things nearest his heart. He was allowing
her to approach him.
Michael laughed. “And yours, too, I hope?”
“Why?” Millicent’s heart quickened.
“Because Akhnaton was the first
man to preach simplicity, honesty, frankness and sincerity,
and he preached it from a throne. He was the
first Pharaoh to be a humanitarian, the first man in
whose heart there was no trace of barbarism.”
“Really?” Millicent said.
Michael’s earnestness forbade levity.
“How interesting! Do tell me more about
“He was the first human being
to understand rightly the meaning of divinity.”
“But what he taught didn’t
last. We owe nothing to his doctrines, do we?
Did it ever spread beyond his own kingdom?”
“Like other great teachers,
he sacrificed all to his principles. Yet there
can be no question that his ideals will hold good ’till
the swan turns black and the crow turns white, till
the hills rise up and travel and the deeps rush into
the rivers.’ That’s how Weigall ends
up the life he has written of the great reformer.
How can you say that we owe nothing to him?
You might as well say that we owe nothing to any of
the great men of whom we have never heard, and yet
you know that thought affects the whole world.
Akhnaton made himself immortal by his prophecies they
were the eternal truths revealed to him by God.”
“By a prophet, do you mean that
he was a prophet like Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah and
“I mean that prophets were the
seers to whom God communicated knowledge. Prophets
were the people to whom He made revelations; he enlightened
their minds; He certainly revealed Himself to Akhnaton,
or how else could he, in that age of darkness, have
evolved for himself an almost perfect conception of
divinity? Weigall says ’he evolved a monotheist’s
religion second only to Christianity itself in its
purity of tone.’ If God had not revealed
Himself to Akhnaton as He did later on to Moses and
Abraham, and as I believe He still does to our true
reformers, how could he, as Weigall says, have evolved
his beautiful religion ’in an age of superstition,
and in a land where the grossest polytheism reigned
“And are you now on your way
to visit his tomb, Mike? How thrilling!”
“Yes,” Michael said.
He answered her simply, forgetful of the fact that
she could only have obtained her information on this
point in an underhand manner.
“You know where it is?”
“He was buried in the hills which lie beyond
“Yes, the City of the Horizon,
the capital he built when he found it necessary for
the progress of his new religion to get away from Thebes,
from the priests of Amon-Ra.”
Michael’s thoughts became absorbed.
They travelled to the mid-African in el-Azhar and
then became mixed up with this meeting with the desert-saint.
Could this poor, emaciated figure, so shrunken and
worn with tropical fevers and famished for want of
food, have any knowledge of the hidden treasure which
the seer had visualized?
Millicent allowed his thoughts to
wander. She knew the force of silent companionship.
She knew that, although he was apparently far from
her, he was conscious of her presence. She would
have liked to ask him a thousand questions, to have
talked rather than held her peace; but her instinct
as a woman forbade it. Something told her that
during their talk Michael was one half saint, one
half man, and the man-power was stronger than he knew.
Many stars had appeared in the sky,
which had deepened. It was now the violet-blue
of a desert night. The passion of the heavens
was beginning. Could man and woman remain outside
In the distance an occasional roar
from one of the camels interrupted the silence.
Surely it was a night for love, the love that needs
Millicent and Michael were seated
on the sand, gazing into the deepening heavens.
Michael was sorely disturbed.
“Could anything be more Eastern?”
Millicent said dreamily. In speech she had to
walk very carefully. Her mystic baffled her.
“Nothing,” Michael said.
“Isn’t it sad to think what city-dwellers
“I love even the roar of the
camels, don’t you?” Her eyes were looking
at the animals, as they knelt at rest in the distance,
their long day’s journey done. What stored-up
revenge their roars suggest! They always seem
to say, “My day will come, if it is yours to-day.”
“Let’s think of the most
English thing we can, Mike,” she said suddenly,
“just by way of contrast.”
They thought for a moment or two in
silence. The arid desert was softened by the
absence of the sun, its desolation was made more manifest.
At night even more than by day, you could feel the
immensity of its distance, its silent rolling from
ocean to ocean. Nothing speaks to man’s
heart more eloquently than the voice of perfect silence.
For the sake of prudence Michael was
consenting to Millicent’s suggestion to think
of the most English scene he could. Was it a
village public-house, full of hearty English yokels,
drinking their evening tankards of beer? This
was about the time they would assemble. He had
not yet formed his picture into words, Millicent had
not spoken, when suddenly Abdul appeared and begged
permission to speak to his master.
The sick man was better; he had eaten
some food and was conscious. Abdul had evidently
some information which was for his master’s ear
alone. He politely inferred that he could not
say it before the honourable lady.
Michael rose from his seat beside
Millicent, who, being wise in her generation, said:
“Then I will say good-night and go to bed.
I am very tired.”
said brightly, while a sudden sense of relief came
to his heart. “I think you are very wise.
You must be quite tired out.”
“So far, so good,” Millicent
said when she was alone. “What a weird
mystic I’ve attached myself to!” She alluded
to Michael, not to the Moslem saint.
Her camp-outfit was so complete that
in her desert bedroom there was scarcely an item missing
which could ensure her comfort. She contemplated
going to bed with enjoyment. Where money is,
there also are the fleshpots of Egypt, even if it
is in the waterless tracts of the Arabian desert.
Material comforts meant very much
to Millicent. She enjoyed using all the little
accessories belonging to a fastidious woman’s
toilet; she enjoyed, too, the occupation of expending
care on her person. Her rising up and lying
down were ceremonies which she performed with unremitting
attention. In her tent in the desert her perfumes
and cosmetics and bath-salts afforded her a curious
satisfaction. They told her that her management
had been perfect; they appealed to her barbaric love
of contrasts. It fed her pride very pleasantly
to know that she could command these luxuries; to
know that by her own wealth she could bring the trivialities
of civilization into the elemental life of the desert
excited her senses.
Her natural beauty could have triumphed
over the ravages made by the sun and the dry desert
air. She was one of those fortunate women who
needed few, if any, of the absurdities which she carried
about with her wheresoever she went. To have
done without them would have been to deprive herself
of a very genuine pleasure, to have starved one of
her eager appetites. Margaret’s rapid
tub, the swift brushing and combing and plaiting of
her dark hair, generally while she read some passage
from a book which interested her, and her total disregard
for cosmetics, would have horrified Millicent if she
had known of her habits. The height of civilization
to Millicent was expressed in a luxuriously-appointed
dressing-table and in an excessive care of her body.
Progress touched its high-water mark in the perfection
of her creature comforts. Taken from this standpoint,
progress could scarcely go any further, or so Michael
would have thought if he had watched her ritual of
going to bed.
She dawdled pleasantly through it,
enjoying every moment of the time, appreciating the
handling of artistically-designed silver objects,
performing with care the washing of her face with oatmeal
and the dusting of her fair skin with the latest luxury
in powder. She liked to take the same care of
her person as a young mother takes of her first baby,
and as she expressed it to smell
like one when the ceremony was finished.
Her love of contrasts appealed to
her, when she stood, all ready for bed in her foolish
nightgown a mere veil of chiffon becomingly
guarded by a Japanese kimono of the softest silk.
She visualized the timeless desert outside her tent,
the trackless ocean of silence, the uninhabited primitive
world. She felt like a queen, travelling in
state through a waterless, foodless world.
She held up her empty arms.
Some other night! Some other night! Her
heart assured her. With a sigh of content she
lay down to sleep, well satisfied with her own diplomacy
and cunning. Her last conscious thoughts were
of Margaret Lampton. What was she doing to-night?
What were her thoughts?
Late that night, as Abdul passed the
Englishwoman’s tent, he spat at her door.