Gregorio by Percy Hemingway
I—AT THE PARADISO
The Cafe Paradiso was full of people, for the inhabitants of Alexandria
had dined, and the opera season was over. The seats at every table were
occupied, and the fumes of smoke from a hundred cigars partly hid the
ladies of the orchestra. As the waiters pushed aside the swing-doors of
the buffet and staggered into the salon with whisky, absinthe, and coffee,
the click of billiard-balls was heard. The windows facing the sea were
wide open, for the heat was intense, and the murmur of the waves mingled
with the plaintive voices of the violins.
Seated by a table at the far end of the hall, Gregorio Livadas hummed
softly an accompaniment to Suppe's "Poete et Paysan," puffing from time to
time a cloudlet of blue smoke from his mouth. When the music ceased he
joined in the applause, leaning back happily in his chair as the musicians
prepared to repeat the last movement. Meanwhile his eyes wandered idly
over the faces of his neighbors.
When the last chord was struck he saw the women hurry down from the
platform and rush toward the tables where their acquaintances sat. He
heard them demand beer and coffee, and they drank eagerly, for fiddling in
that heat was thirsty work. He watched the weary waiters hastening from
table to table, and he heard the voices around him grow more animated and
the laughter more frequent. One man was fastening a spray of flowers on
the ample bosom of the flautiste, while another sipped the brown lager
from the glass of the big drum, and the old wife of the conductor left her
triangle and cymbals to beg some roses from an Arab flower-girl. Truly the
world was enjoying itself, and Gregorio smiled dreamily, for the sight of
so much gaiety pleased him. He wished one of the women would come and talk
to him; he would have liked to chat with the fair-haired girl who played
the first violin so well. He began to wonder why she preferred that ugly
Englishman with his red face and bald head. He caught snatches of their
conversation. Bah! how uninteresting it was! for they could barely
understand each other. What pleasure did she find in listening to his bad
French? and in her native Hungarian he could not even say, "I love." Why
had she not come to him, Gregorio Livadas, who could talk to her well and
would not mumble like an idiot and look red and uncomfortable! Then he saw
she was drinking champagne, and he sighed. Ah, yes, these English were
rich, and women only cared for money; they were unable to give up their
luxuries for the sake of a man.
But at this thought Gregorio blushed a little. After all, there was one
woman—the only woman he ought to think of—who was not afraid
of hardship for the sake of her husband. He tried to excuse himself by
arguing that the music had excited him; but he felt a little ashamed, and
as a sop to his not yet quite murdered conscience got up and left the
When he turned into the Place Mehemet Ali he remembered suddenly that he
had wasted his evening. It was ten o'clock, too late to set about the
business he had intended. He was angry with himself now as well as
ashamed. He wandered up and down the square, looking at the statue of the
great khedive, silhouetted against the moonlight, and cursed at his
Why should he, Gregorio Livadas, be in need of money? He had worked hard,
but without success. He could have borne his ill luck had he alone been
the sufferer, but he must consider his child—and, of course, his
wife too. He was really fond of his wife in a way. But he smiled proudly
as he thought of his son, for whom he schemed out a great future. He and
Xantippe would train the boy so carefully that he would grow up to be a
great man, and, what was more, a rich man. How they would laugh, all
three, as they sat in the splendid cafes over their wine, at the hardships
the father had endured! Still he must not forget the present, and he
sorely needed money. He would go to Amos again. Amos was a rich man, very
rich, and a filthy Jew. Amos could easily spare him some money and renew
the last loan. He was going to be successful now and would be able to pay
good interest. What better investment could Amos have? Surely none. He was
going to set up a cafe with the money at Tanta, or Zagazig, or even
Benhur,—yes, Benhur was the best,—where there were few
competitors. Then he would make a fortune, as other Greeks had done, and
Amos would be paid in full. He was not extravagant, no; he had the
business instincts of his race. Half these rich merchants of Alexandria
had begun as he would begin; he would succeed as they had succeeded. The
future was really hopeful, if he could only borrow a little capital.
With these thoughts surging through his brain Gregorio paced up and down
the pavements. At last he turned into the Rue des Soeurs and started
slowly toward his home.
This street, the sink of Alexandria, was at its gayest. The cafes where
cheap liquor is sold were crowded. Soldiers and sailors, natives and the
riffraff of half a dozen nations, jostled one another. The twanging of
guitars and the tinkling of pianos was heard from every house. Women,
underclothed and overpainted, leaned from the upper windows and made
frequent sallies into the street to capture their prey. Loud voices sang
lusty English choruses and French chansonnettes, and Neapolitan songs
tried to assert themselves whenever the uproar ceased for a moment. Every
one talked his, or her, own tongue, and gesture filled in the gaps when
words were wanting. All seemed determined to degrade themselves as much as
possible, and nearly every one seemed supremely happy.
Occasionally there was a fight, and knives were used with unerring skill;
but the mounted police who patrolled the streets, though overtaxed,
managed to preserve a certain amount of order.
Gregorio took very little notice of the scenes through which he passed. He
knew every inch and corner of the quarter that had been his home for
years, and was familiar with most of its inhabitants. He sighed a little
as he thought of the money being lost and won in the stuffy ill-lighted
rooms at the back of the houses, shut out from view of the authorities.
Like most of his race, he was fond of the excitement of gambling. But of
what use were regrets and sighs? he had no money, and must needs go home.
It was vain to try and borrow or to ask credit for his losses; in these
gambling hells what is lost must be immediately paid, for tempers are
inflamed by drink and knives are worn at each player's belt.
But he sighed, none the less, at the hard necessity that compelled him to
pass down the street without once entering the doors of a tavern. It was
very hot, and he had smoked many cigarettes. He would have been glad to
call for a drink. The tavern-keepers, though they were his friends,
expected to be paid. One or two women beckoned to him, who would have
willingly offered him wine, but he was proud enough to ignore them.
He became more moody and dejected as he went along, silent and sober amid
so much revelry. When he reached his house he saw a drunken man lying on
the threshold asleep. He stooped to look into his face and recognised an
Englishman, the foreman of some tramp in the harbour. He kicked the
recumbent form testily as he strode over it.
"These English, what beasts they are!" he growled, "and I—I have not
a piastre for a single glass of wine."
II—CONCERNING A DEBT
Gregorio found, on entering his house, that his wife was already in bed.
He went into the tiny kitchen and saw a plate of macaroni ready for his
supper. He tried to eat some, but it stuck in his throat. He took a bottle
of cheap Cretan wine from a shelf and drank from it; but the wine was
sour, and he spat it from his mouth with a curse.
Taking up the lamp, he went into the bedroom. His wife was fast asleep
with the boy in her arms. For a moment a smile flickered round Gregorio's
mouth as he looked at them. Then he took off his boots and his coat, blew
out the lamp, and lay beside them. He was very tired after his long tramp
in the hot streets, but he could not sleep. Angrily he tossed from side to
side and closed his eyes tightly; but it was no good, sleep would not
At midnight he heard a call to prayer chanted from the minaret of a tiny
mosque in the neighbourhood. The muezzin's voice irritated him. He did not
wish to pray, and he did want to sleep. He swore that it was insanity for
these fools of Mohammedans to declare that prayer was better than sleep.
Then the thoughts that had agitated him during the walk returned to him.
The Rue des Soeurs was still noisy with merry-makers, and it seemed to him
that if he could only join them he would be happy. But he had no money,
and one can do nothing without money!
Then there came back to him the face of the Englishman he had seen talking
to the violinist of the Paradiso. He hated the man because he was ugly and
rich. These English were all rich, and yet they seemed to him a miserable
race, mere ignorant bullies. He remembered how often he had come to the
help of the English travellers who filled Egypt. Why had he, he asked
himself, for the sake of a miserable reward, prevented them being cheated,
when he, with all his talents, was condemned to starve? Even his child, he
thought, would grow to hate him if he remained poor. He must get money.
Amos would have to lend him some. The Jews were unpopular among the
Greeks; it were wise to keep on good terms with them, as Amos would find
At last he fell asleep.
In the morning his troubles began again. There was no coffee, and only a
little Arab bread, and when that was done they must starve if they could
not get some money. Gregorio tore off a bit of bread and ate it slowly,
looking at his wife, who sat weeping beside him.
"I shall go to Amos," he said, firmly.
"Ah, yes, to Amos," Xantippe answered quietly; "but it will be no good."
"Why no good?"
"Because you owe him money, and he will give you no more till he is paid."
"But we cannot pay him. He must let us have some. If not—" and
Gregorio raised threatening.
His wife smiled sadly and kissed him.
"You will not frighten Amos, my love. When I told him the child had been
ill, he only laughed."
"When was that?"
"Then he had been here?"
"He came last night to ask for his money. I told him we had none, and he
laughed and said we must get some. He told me I might get some if I cared
to. He said I could make, oh, so much!"
Gregorio scowled savagely. "The filthy Jew! he said that? Never, never,
"But we must get some money," the woman sobbed, "if only for our son's
sake, Gregorio. But not that way?"
"No, not that way," he replied, savagely.
"When shall you go to him?"
And taking up his hat he rushed into the street. He was terribly angry,
not so much at the purport of the Jew's speech as at the man who made it.
He loathed the Jews, and felt insulted when spoken to by one; it was a
terrible matter to ask this man for help, but it was intolerable that his
wife should suffer insult. And yet the child must be fed. Yes, she had
said that, and it was true. They must make sacrifices for the child.
He soon reached the Jew's house, and was shown by a richly clad servant
into the room where Amos sat. Amos was an old man, tall and strong, with a
long bushy beard, in which his fingers continually played; and his eyes
were sharp and brilliant and restless, a strange contrast to his stately
bearing and measured movements. He rose from his cushions as Gregorio
entered, and saluted him courteously, motioning him to a seat. Then,
having resettled himself, he clapped his hands together smartly and
ordered the servant who answered the summons to bring in coffee and pipes.
Gregorio was rather overawed at the luxury he saw around him, and he felt
the stern-looking, polite old man would be a difficult person to deal
with. As he puffed at his tube he considered carefully what words he
For some time neither spoke, but Amos was the first to break the silence.
"You heard I was at your house last night, and so have come to pay me?"
"Yes, I heard you were at my house and that you wanted to be paid. You are
a rich man, and I am poor."
"Nay, I am not rich; they lie who say I am rich."
"It is twenty pounds I owe you, is it not?"
"Yes, twenty pounds. It is a large sum, and I have dealt generously with
you. I am now in need of it myself."
"I am a poor man."
"You have not the money, eh, my friend?"
"I have not the money. But I will pay you if you will lend me some more. I
shall be successful now; only twenty pounds more."
Amos appeared unmoved at the tremor in Gregorio's voice. His eyes rested
coldly on the face of his client, while the unfortunate Greek continued to
speak rapidly of his troubles and hopes. He smiled sarcastically as
Gregorio spoke of the certainty of making his fortune at Benhur, and
remained quite unmoved at the story of the sufferings of a woman and child
from hunger and want.
"Your wife is beautiful," was all he answered when Gregorio paused for a
moment. At these words, however, he half rose from his place and clinched
his hands savagely. But he sank back again with the remembrance that a
show of temper would not advance his cause.
"Very beautiful," he answered, chokingly; "would you see her starve?"
"She is not my wife," said Amos, quietly. Then he continued slowly,
pausing at intervals to puff out a cloud of smoke from his mouth:
"You have owed me this money a long time. I want it, and I will have it.
Even in Egypt there is law. You do not like us Jews, but the law will
protect me as long as I am rich enough to buy justice. In three days you
will pay me this money. I have been generous to you; now I will be
generous no longer. If I am not paid I will take measures to recover my
loss. You will sleep in the streets like the Arabs, my friend; but the
weather is warm. It is early summer, so you will scarcely feel the
exposure. In three days you will come and pay me."
"But how am I to get the money? If you would lend me only a few pounds I
would repay you all I owe."
"Already you owe me more than you can pay. You can make money. You are
married. These Christian women are worse than the Arabs; do I not see them
as I come home in the evening from my business? It is not right to borrow
and not repay. I need my money. How can I have my coffee and my pipe
unless I have money?"
Gregorio listened with growing anger, and finally rose from his seat and
shook his fist in the old man's face.
"You shall be paid," he shouted, "you shall be paid!"
"Anger is useless, my friend."
And as Gregorio left the house Amos smiled and stroked his beard. "Truly,"
he thought, "these Christians hate us, but we have them in our power. It
is pleasant to be hated and yet to know that it is to us they must cringe
when they are in need; and it is very pleasant to refuse. My friend
Gregorio is not happy now that he is struggling in my grasp."
As for Gregorio, he wandered away toward the harbour, kicking savagely at
the refuse scattered along the pavement. He did not know how to set about
earning the requisite sum. It was no good applying to the hotels or
tourist agencies, for there were few visitors in the city and dragomen
were therefore not needed.
His friends were too poor to help him, and the consul was unable to do
much for him, there were so many poor Greeks who wanted help. Meanwhile
there was no food at home and no drink; even the necessaries of life were
On arriving at his home he found his wife and child huddled in a corner
crying for food. They ran toward him as he entered, but the hope in their
faces quickly faded at the sight of him.
"It's no good," Gregorio growled; "Amos refuses to advance a piastre and
says I must pay all I owe in three days."
"It is impossible to sleep when one is hungry," said Gregorio that night
to his wife, who lay awake, weeping, beside him.
III—OF FAILURE AND A RESOLVE
Gregorio's dreams, when he did sleep, were none of the pleasantest, and
when he woke up, from time to time, he heard his wife weeping. In
wondering what he should say to comfort her he fell asleep again, and
sleeping was worse than lying awake. For in his dreams he saw Xantippe and
his child starving and crying for food, and he was unable to help them in
any way. He lived over again the long day he had spent tramping the
streets of Alexandria searching for work. He saw the few tourists still
left in the town fat and happy; he saw the porters of the hotels who had
smiled on him pityingly and yet contemptuously; and he woke, after each
representation of the crude comedy, hot and yet cold with perspiration, to
feel the bed on which he lay shaking under the sobs of his wife.
When at last day dawned Gregorio raised himself with an oath, and swore to
find food for his family and work for himself. The terrible debt he owed
to Amos he swore should not trouble him, laughing at his wife's
remonstrances. With the bright daylight had come a new courage, and,
hungry as he was, he felt able not only to satisfy their hunger, but so
skilfully to arrange matters that they would never feel hungry again. Yet
is was a terrible ordeal, that half-hour when the family should have sat
down to a table laden with food. The poor wife cried, and he had to
comfort her tears with promises, unsubstantial nutriment indeed, and they
could not satisfy the child, who failed dismally to understand them.
Through the green blinds came the noise of life and health and merriment;
curses too, sometimes, but only the curses of the well fed, and therefore
meaningless. Already the sun fell hot and indomitable on the room, and the
atmosphere at their touch became stifling. Gregorio, swallowing his tears,
tore out into the street, shouting up the narrow stairway hysterical words
How long and shadowless the street seemed! Every house had its green
blinds closely shut; the wind that stirred the dust of the pavements was
hot and biting. Gregorio clinched his hands and strode rapidly onward.
What mattered it to him that behind those green blinds women and men
slumbered in comparative comfort? He had a work to do, and by sunset must
carry good tidings to his little world. For a time his heart was brave as
the dry wind scorched the tear upon his cheek. "Surely," he thought,
weaving his thoughts into a fine marching rhythm, "the great God will help
me now, will help me now."
At midday, after he had tried, with that strange Greek pertinacity that
understands no refusals, all the hotels and tourist agencies he had called
at the day before, he became weary and disconsolate. The march had become
a dirge; no longer it suggested happiness to be, but failure. An
Englishman threw him a piastre, and he turned into a cafe. Calling for a
glass of wine, he flung himself down on the wooden bench and tried to
think. But really logical thinking was impossible. For in spite of the
sorrow at his heart, the same bright dreams of wealth and happiness came
back to mock him. The piastre he played with became gold, and he felt the
cafe contained no luxuries that he might not command to be brought before
him. But as the effects of the red wine of Lebanon evaporated he began to
take a soberer though still cheerful view of his position. It was only
when the waiter carried off his piastre that he suddenly woke to fact and
knew himself once more a man with a wife and child starving in Alexandria,
an alien city for all its wealthy colony of Greeks. A wave of pity swept
over him; not so much for the woman was he sorry, though he loved her too,
but for the baby whose future he had planned. He scowled savagely at the
inmates of the cafe, who only smiled quietly, for they were used to poor
Greeks who had drunk away their last coin, and pushed past them into the
There it was hotter than ever, and he met scarcely any one. Every one who
could be was at home, or in the cool cafes; only Gregorio was abroad. He
determined to make for the quay. He knew that many ships put into the
Alexandrian waters, and there was often employment found for those not too
proud to work at lading and unloading. Quickly, and burning as the
kempsin, he hurried through the Rue des Soeurs, not daring to look up at
the house wherein he dwelt. The muffled sounds of voices and guitars from
the far-away interiors seemed to mock his footsteps as he passed the
wine-shops; and all the other houses were silent and asleep. At last he
arrived on the quay, and the black lines of the P. and O. stood out firmly
before him against the pitiless blue of sea and sky. He wandered over the
hot stone causeway, but found no one. The revenue officers were away, and
not a labourer, not a sailor, was visible. Beyond the breakwater little
tufts of silvery foam flashed on the rollers, and a solitary steamer
steered steadily for the horizon. He could see the Greek flag at her
stern, and his eyes filled with tears. Ah, how little his friends in
Athens thought of the man who had come to find fame and fortune in the
far-off East! He sat down on the parapet and watched the vessel until she
became a tiny speck on the horizon, and then he recommenced his search for
work. His heart was braver for a moment because of its pangs; he swore he
would show these countrymen of his who dwelt at home, and who in three
days would see the very ship he had been gazing at arrive in Grecian
waters, that he was worthy of his country and his kinsfolk.
But resolutions were useless, tenacity of purpose was useless. For two
long hours he wandered by the harbour, but met no one.
At last the sun fell behind the western waves, and the windows of the
khedive's palace glowed like a hundred flaming eyes; the flags fell from
the masts of the vessels; on the city side was a sudden silence, save for
the melancholy voices of the muezzins; then the day died; the bright
stars, suddenly piercing the heavens, mocked him with their brilliance and
told him that his useless search for bread was over.
Gregorio went back slowly to his home. Already the Rue des Soeurs was
crowded. The long street rang with music and laughter, and instead of
blinds covering the windows merry women leaned upon the sills and laughed
at the crowds below.
Gregorio, when he reached his house, would have liked to go straight to
bed. But it was not to be, for as he entered the tiny room he heard his
wife trying to persuade the hungry infant into sleep, and his footsteps
disturbed her tears. He had to calm them as best he could, and as he
soothed her he noticed the child had a crust in his hand which he gnawed
half contentedly. At the same moment the dim blue figure of an Arab passed
by the opposite wall, and had almost gained the door ere Gregorio found
"Who are you?"
"It is Ahmed," his wife answered, gently, placing her trembling hand upon
his shoulder; "he too has children."
Gregorio scowled and muttered, "An Arab," and in that murmur none of the
loathing was hidden that the pseudo-West bears for the East.
"The child is starving," said Ahmed. "I have saved the child; maybe some
day I shall save the father." And Ahmed slipped away before Gregorio could
For a while neither he nor his wife spoke; they stood silent in the
moonlight. At last Gregorio asked huskily, "Have you had food?"
"Not to-day," was the answer; and the sweet voice was almost discordant in
its pathos as it continued, "nor drink, and but for Ahmed the boy had
Gregorio could not answer; there was a lump in his throat that blocked
words, opening the gate for sobs. But he choked down his emotion with an
effort and busied himself about the room. Xantippe sat watching him
anxiously, smoothly with nervous fingers the covering of her son's bed.
As the night advanced the heat increased, and all that disturbed the
silence of the room was the echo of the streets. Gregorio walked to the
window and looked out. Below him he saw the jostling crowd of men and
women. These people, he thought, were happy, and two miserables only dwelt
in the city—his wife and himself. And whenever he asked himself what
was the cause of his misery, the answer was ever the same—poverty.
He glanced at his son, tossing uneasily in his bed; he looked at his wife,
pale and haggard in the moonlight; he remembered his own sufferings all
day long in the hot cruel streets, and he spoke unsteadily:
"I have thought over things."
"And I too."
"We are starving,—you are starving, and I am starving,—and all
day long I tramp these cursed streets, but gain nothing. So it will go on,
day in, day out. Not only we ourselves, but our son too must die. We must
"Yes," said Xantippe, quietly, repeating her husband's words as she kissed
the forehead of her child, "we must save him."
"There is only one way."
"Only one way," repeated Xantippe, dreamily. There was a pause, and then,
as though the words had grown to have a meaning to her that she could not
fathom, she queried, "What way, Gregorio?"
"That," he said, roughly, as he caught her by the wrist, and, dragging her
to the window, pointed to the women in the street beneath.
Xantippe hid her face on her husband's breast and cried softly, while she
murmured, "No, no; I will never consent."
"Then the child will die," answered the Greek, curtly, flinging her from
And the poor woman cast herself upon the bed beside her boy, and when her
tears ceased for a moment stammered, "When?"
"To-morrow," was the answer, cruel and peremptory. And as Gregorio closed
the lattice, shutting out the noise of song and laughter, the room echoed
with the mighty sobbing of a woman who was betrayed, and who repeated
hysterically, while kissing the face of her child, "To-morrow, to-morrow
there will be food for you."
And Gregorio slept peacefully, for the danger of starvation was over; he
would yet live to see his son become rich.
And the woman?
He kissed her before he slept, and women always cry.
IV—CONCERNING TWO WOMEN
Gregorio felt a little bit ashamed of himself next morning. The excitement
had passed, and the full meaning of his words came back to him and made
him shudder. The sun, already risen, sent shafts of light between the lips
of the wooden lattice. A faint sound of life and movement stole upward
from the street below. But Xantippe and the boy still slumbered, though
the woman's form shook convulsively at times, for she sobbed in her sleep.
Gregorio looked at the two for a minute and then raised himself with an
oath. The woman's heavy breathing irritated him, for, after all, he
argued, it was her duty as well as his to sacrifice herself for the lad.
Moreover, the Jew must be paid, and to-day was that appointed by Amos for
the settling of their account. There was no money to pay it with, and they
must lose their furniture, so much at least was certain. But Amos would
not have the best of the bargain, thought the Greek as he looked round the
room with a grin, and the certainty that he had got the better of Amos for
the moment cheered his spirits. Then, too, after to-day there would be
plenty to eat, for his wife could manage to earn money; nor was the man so
mean in his villainy as to shirk any effort to earn money himself. After
first looking at his wife critically and with a satisfied smile, he
touched her on the shoulder to wake her.
"I am going out for work," he said, as Xantippe opened her eyes.
But Xantippe answered not. She turned her face to the wall wearily as
Gregorio left her.
Entering the street he made straight for Amos's house, and told the
porter, who was still lying on the trestle before the door, that he could
not pay the Jew's bill. Then without waiting for an answer, he hurried off
to the quay.
With better luck than on the previous day, he managed to obtain employment
for some hours. The Greek mail-boat had arrived, and under the blazing sun
he toiled good-humouredly and patiently. The work was hard, but it gave
him no opportunity of thinking. He had to be continually dodging large
bales of fruit and wine, and if he made a mistake the officer on duty
would shout at him angrily, "Lazy dog! you would not have left Greece were
you not an idle fellow." Such words wounded his pride, and he determined
to do so well that he should earn praise. But the little officer, his
bright buttons flashing in the sunlight, who smoked quietly in the
intervals of silence, never praised anybody; but he left off abusing
Gregorio at last, and when work ceased for the day bade him come again on
At sunset Gregorio pocketed his few hard-earned piastres and wandered
cityward. He did not care to go back to his home, for he knew there would
be miserable stories to tell of the Jew's anger, and, moreover, he was
terribly thirsty. So he went into a little cafe—known as the
Penny-farthing Shop—opposite his house and called for a flask of
kephisa. As he sipped the wine he glanced up nervously at his window and
wondered whether his wife had already left home. Were he sure that she
had, he would leave his wine untouched and hasten to look after his son
and give him food. But until he knew Xantippe had gone he would not move.
The sobs of yesterday still disturbed him, and he was more than once on
the point of cancelling his resolves. But as the wine stirred his blood he
became satisfied with what he had done and said. The little cafe at Benhur
that was to make his fortune seemed nearly in his grasp. Had he not, he
asked himself, worked all day without a murmur? It was right Xantippe
should help him.
As he sat dreamily thinking over these things, and watching the shadows
turn to a darker purple under the oil-lamps, a woman spoke to him.
"Well, Gregorio, are you asleep?"
"No," said he, turning toward his questioner.
The woman laughed. She was a big woman, dressed in loose folds of red and
blue. Her hair was dishevelled, and ornamented with brass pins fastened
into it at random. Her sleeves were rolled up to her armpits, and she had
her arms akimbo—fat, flabby arms that shook as she laughed. Her eyes
were almost hidden, she screwed them up so closely, but her wide mouth
opened and disclosed a row of gigantic, flawless teeth.
Gregorio frowned as he looked at her. He knew her well and had never liked
her. But he dare not quarrel with her, for he owed her money, and "for the
love of his black eyes," as she told him, she had ever a bottle of wine
ready for him when he wished.
"Well, my good woman," he blurted out, surlily, "you seem to be amused."
"I am, Gregorio. Tell me," she continued, slyly, seating herself beside
him and placing her elbows on the table, "how is she?"
"Xantippe. She came to me to-day, and I saw she had been crying. But I
said nothing, because it is not always wise to ask questions. I thought
she wept because she was hungry and because the baby was hungry. I offered
her food and she took some, but so little, scarcely enough to cover a
ten-piastre piece. 'That is for the baby,' I said; 'now some for you.' But
"Perhaps she had food for herself," said Gregorio, shifting uneasily in
"Perhaps," said the woman, and laughed again, more loudly than ever, till
the table shook. "But she asked me for something else," she continued,
when her merriment languished for want of breath; "she asked me to let her
have an old dress of mine, a bright yellow-and-red dress, and she borrowed
some ornaments. It is not right of you, Gregorio, to keep an old friend on
the door-step when you have a fantasia."
Gregorio scowled savagely. After a pause he said, "I don't know why my
wife wanted your dress and ornaments."
"Oh yes, you do, friend Gregorio." And she laughed again, this time a
suppressed, chuckling laugh that threatened to choke her; and she
supported her chin on her hands, while her eyes peered through the
enveloping fat at the man who sat opposite to her. Suddenly she stood up,
and taking Gregorio by the arm dragged him to the door.
"See, there she goes. My garments are cleverly altered and suit her
finely, don't they? Ah, well, my friend, a man who cannot support a wife
should marry a woman who can support him."
Gregorio did not stop to answer her, but pushed past her into the street.
The woman watched him enter the house opposite, and then returned quietly
to her work. But there was a smile hovering round her lips as she murmured
to herself, "Ah, well, in time."
Gregorio meanwhile had run up to his room and entered it breathless with
excitement. The first glance told him that Amos had seized all he could,
for nothing remained save a wooden bench and one or two coarse,
half-disabled cooking utensils.
Gregorio swore a little as he realised what had happened. Then he saw in a
corner by the window his son and Ahmed.
"She has gone," said Ahmed, as Gregorio's gaze rested on him. But she
might have gone merely to market, or to see a neighbour, for all the
imperturbable Arab face disclosed. As soon as he had spoken the man bent
over the child, laughing softly as the youngster played with his beard.
For the Arab, as he is miscalled, is fond of children, and there are none
to whom children take so readily as to the Egyptian fellahin.
Gregorio watched the two for a moment, and then placing his remaining
piastres in the man's hand bade him bring food and wine. As soon as he was
left alone with his son, he flung himself down on the floor and kissed,
"You shall be a great man, ay, a rich man, my son."
He repeated the sentence over and over again, punctuating it with kisses,
while the two-year-old regarded him wonderingly, until Ahmed returned.
When the meal was ended Gregorio took the boy in his arms and sang to him
softly till at last the infant slept. Then he placed him gently on the
floor, having first made of his coat a bed, and went to the window and
flung back the shutters. He smoked quietly as the minutes went by, waiting
impatiently for his wife to return. It seemed to him monstrous that the
boy who was to inherit a fortune should be sleeping on the dirty floor
wrapped in an old coat; that an Arab, a mere fellah, should amuse his son
and play with him, when Greek nurses were to be hired in Alexandria had
one only the money. Long after midnight he heard a step on the stairs, and
a minute after the door opened. He recognised his wife's footsteps, and he
rose to meet her. As she came into the room she looked quickly round, and
seeing her son went toward him and kissed him. Gregorio, half afraid,
stood by the window watching her. She let her glance rest on him a minute,
then she turned round and laid her cloak upon the floor.
But she did not answer.
"Xantippe, I have fed our son. The good days are coming when we shall be
rich and happy."
But Xantippe was too busy folding out the creases of her cloak to notice
him. The moonlight streamed on to her, and her face shone like an angel's.
Gregorio made one step toward her, ravished, for she had never appeared so
beautiful to him. For the moment he forgot the whole hideous history of
the last few days and the brief, horrible conversation of the night
before. Fired with a desire to touch her, to kiss her, to whisper into her
ear, in the soft Greek speech, all the endearments and tendernesses that
had won her when he wooed her, he placed his hand upon her arm. As if
stung by a venomous snake, the woman recoiled from his touch. With a quick
movement she sprang back and flung at his face a handful of gold and
"Take them; they're yours," she cried, huskily, and retreated into the
farthest corner of the room.
With a savage curse Gregorio put his hand to his lips and wiped away the
blood, for a heavy coin had cut him. Then he ran swiftly downstairs, and
Xantippe, as she lay down wearily beside her boy, heard a woman laugh.
V—XANTIPPE LOOKS OUT OF THE WINDOW
The Penny-farthing Shop was full of customers, and Madam Marx, the fat
woman who followed Gregorio to the bar, was for a long time busy attending
to her clients. Some English war-ships had entered the harbour at sunset,
and many of the sailors had lost no time in seeking out their favourite
haunt. Most of them knew Madam Marx well, as a good-natured woman who gave
them plenty to drink for their money, and secreted them from the eyes of
the police when the liquor overpowered them. Consequently there was much
laughter and shaking of hands, and many a rough jest, which Madam Marx
responded to in broken English. Gregorio watched the sailors gloomily. He
hated the English, for even their sailors seemed to have plenty of money,
and he recalled the rich Englishman he had seen at the Cafe Paradiso,
drinking champagne and buying flowers for the Hungarian woman who played
the fiddle. The scene he had just left contrasted disagreeably with the
fun and jollity that surrounded him. But he felt unable to shake off his
gloom and annoyance, and Madam Marx's attentions irritated him. He felt
that her eyes continually rested on him, that, however busy she might be,
he was never out of her thoughts. Every few minutes she would come toward
him with a bottle of wine and fill up his glass, saying, "Come, my friend;
wine is good and will drown your troubles." And though he resented her
patronage, knowing he could not pay, he nevertheless drank steadily.
Every few minutes he heard the sound of horses' hoofs on the hard roadway,
and through the windows he saw the military police pass slowly on their
At last the strong drinks so amiably retailed by Madam Marx did their
work, and the men lay about the floor asleep and breathing heavily. The
silence succeeding the noise startled Gregorio from his sullen humour.
Madam Marx came and sat beside him, weary as she was with her long
labours, and talked volubly. The wine had mounted to his head, and he
answered her in rapid sentences, accompanying his words with gesture and
grimace. What he talked about he scarcely knew, but the woman laughed, and
he took an insane delight in hearing her. Just before daylight he fell
asleep, resting his head on his arms, that were spread across the table.
Madam Marx kissed him as he slept, murmuring to herself contentedly, "Ah,
well, in time."
When Gregorio woke the sun was high in the heavens, blazing out of a
brazen sky. Clouds of dust swept past the door from time to time, and cut
his neck and face as he stood on the threshold smoking lazily. It was too
late to go down to the quay, for his place must have long ago been filled
by another. He was not sorry, since he by no means desired to toil again
under the hot sun; the heavy drinking of the night had made him lethargic,
and he was so thirsty the heat nearly choked him. He called out to a
water-carrier staggering along in the scanty shade on the opposite side of
the street, and took eagerly a draught of water. He touched the pigskin
with his hand, and it was hot. The water was warm and made him sick; he
spat it from his mouth hastily, and hearing a laugh behind him, turned
round and saw Madam Marx.
"See, here is some wine, my friend; leave the water for the Arabs."
Gregorio gratefully seized the flagon and let the wine trickle down his
throat, while Madam Marx, with arms akimbo, stood patiently before him.
"I must go now," he said, as he handed back the half-emptied flask.
"Because I must get some work."
"It is not easy to get work in the summer."
"I know, but I must get some. I owe money to Amos."
"Yes, I know. But your wife is making money now."
The man scowled at her. "How do you know that? Before God, I swear that
she is not."
"Come, come, Gregorio. You were drunk last night, and your tongue wagged
pretty freely. It's not a bit of use being angry with me, because I only
know what you've told me. Besides, I'm your friend, you know that."
Gregorio flushed angrily at the woman's words, but he knew quite well it
was no use replying to them, for she was speaking only the truth. But the
knowledge that he had betrayed his secret annoyed him. He had grown used
to the facts and could look at them easily enough, but he had not reckoned
on others also learning them.
He determined to go out and find work, or at any rate to tramp the streets
pretending to look for something to do. The woman became intolerable to
him, and the Penny-farthing Shop, reeking with the odour of stale tobacco
and spilled liquor, poisoned him. He took up his hat brusquely and stepped
into the street.
Madam Marx, standing at the door, laughed at him as she called out,
"Good-bye, Gregorio; when will you come back?"
He did not answer, but the sound of her laughter followed him up the
street, and he kicked angrily at the stones in his path.
At last he passed by the Ras-el-Tin barracks. He looked curiously at the
English soldiers. Some were playing polo on the hard brown space to the
left, and from the windows of the building men leaned out, their
shirt-sleeves rolled up and their strong arms bared to the sun. They
smoked short clay pipes, and innumerable little blue spiral clouds mounted
skyward. Obviously the heat did not greatly inconvenience them, for they
laughed and sang and drank oceans of beer.
The sight of them annoyed Gregorio. He looked at the pewter mugs shining
in the sunlight. He eyed greedily the passage of one from hand to hand;
and when one man, after taking a long pull, laughed and held it upside
down to show him it was empty, he burst into an uncontrollable fit of
anger, and shook his fist impotently at the soldiers, who chaffed him
good-naturedly. As he went along by the stables, a friendly lancer,
pitying him, probably, too, wearying of his own lonely watch, called to
him, and offered him a drink out of a stone bottle. Gregorio drank again
feverishly, and handed the bottle back to its owner with a grin, and
passed on without a word. The soldier watched him curiously, but said
When he reached the lighthouse Gregorio flung himself on to the
pebble-strewn sand and looked across the bay. The blue water, calm and
unruffled as a sheet of glass, spread before him. The ships—Austrian
Lloyd mail-boats, P. and O. liners, and grimy coal-hulks—lay
motionless against the white side of the jetty.
The khedive's yacht was bright with bunting, and innumerable fishing-boats
near the breakwater made grateful oases in the glare whereon his eyes
might rest. But he heeded them not. Angrily he flung lumps of stone and
sand into the wavelets at his feet, and pushed back his hat that his face
might feel the full heat of the sun. Then he lit a cigarette and began to
But what was the good of thinking? The thoughts always formed themselves
into the same chain and reached the same conclusion; and ever on the
glassy surface of the Levantine sea a woman poised herself and laughed at
When the sun fell behind the horizon, and the breakwater, after dashing up
one flash of gold, became a blue blur, Gregorio rose to go. As he walked
back toward the Penny-farthing Shop he felt angry and unsatisfied. The
whole day was wasted. He had done nothing to relieve his wife, nothing to
pay off Amos. Madam met him at the door, a flask of wine in her hand.
Against his will Gregorio entered her cafe and smiled, but his smile was
sour and malevolent.
"You want cheering, my friend," said madam, laughing.
"I have found nothing to do," said Gregorio.
"Ah! I told you it would be hard. There are no tourists in Alexandria now.
And it is foolish of you to tramp the streets looking for work that you
will never find, when you have everything you can want here."
"Except money, and that's everything," put in Gregorio, bluntly.
"Even money, my friend. I have enough for two."
Madam Marx had played her trump card, and she watched anxiously the effect
of her words. For a moment the man did not speak, but trifled with his
cigarette tobacco, rolling it gently between his brown fingers. Then he
"You know I am in debt now, and I want to pay off all I owe, and leave
"Yes, that's true, but you won't pay off your debts by tramping the
streets, and your little cafe at Benhur will be a long time building, I
fancy. Meanwhile there is money to be made at the Penny-farthing Shop."
"What are your terms?" asked Gregorio, roughly.
The woman laughed, but did not answer. The stars were shining, and the
kempsin that had blown all day was dead. It was cool sitting outside the
door of the cafe under the little awning, and pleasant to watch the blue
cigarette smoke float upward in the still air. Gregorio sat for a while
silent, and the woman came and stood by him. "You know my terms," she
whispered, and Gregorio smiled, took her hand, and kissed her. At that
moment the blind of the opposite house was flung back. Xantippe leaned out
of the window and saw them.
VI—BABY AND JEW
When the Penny-farthing Shop began to fill Gregorio disappeared quietly by
the back door. He muttered a half-unintelligible answer to the men who
were playing cards in the dim parlour through which he had to pass, who
called to him to join them. Gaining the street, he wandered along till he
reached the bazaars, intending to waste an hour or two until Xantippe
should have left the house. Then he determined to go back and see the boy
in whom all his hopes and ambitions were centered, who was the unconscious
cause of his villainy and degradation.
There was a large crowd in the bazaars, for a Moolid was being celebrated.
Jugglers, snake-charmers, mountebanks, gipsies, and dancing-girls
attracted hundreds of spectators.
The old men sat in the shadows of their stalls, smoking and drinking
coffee. They smiled gravely at the younger people, who jostled one another
good-humouredly, laughing, singing, quarrelling like children. Across the
roadway hung lamps of coloured glass and tiny red flags stamped with a
white crescent and a star. Torches blazed at intervals, casting a
flickering glow on the excited faces of the crowd.
Gregorio watched without much interest. He had seen a great many fantasias
since he came to Egypt, and they were no longer a novelty to him. He was
annoyed that a race of people whom he despised should be so merry when he
himself had so many troubles to worry him. He would have liked to go into
one of the booths where the girls danced, but he had no money, and he
cursed at his stupidity in not asking the Marx woman for some. He no
longer felt ashamed of himself, for he argued that he was the victim of
circumstances. Still he wished Xantippe had not looked out of the window,
though of course he could easily explain things to her. And Xantippe was
really so angry the night before, explanations were better postponed for a
time. "After all," he thought, "it really does not much matter. Once we
get over our present difficulties we shall forget all we have gone
through." This comfortable reflection had been doing duty pretty often the
last day or two, and though Gregorio did not believe it a bit, he always
felt it was a satisfactory conclusion, and one to be encouraged.
Meanwhile he would not meet Xantippe. That was a point upon which he had
definitely made up his mind. As he strolled through the bazaars, putting
into order his vagabond thoughts, in a tall figure a few yards in front of
him he recognised Amos. Nervous, he halted, for he had no desire to be
interviewed by the Jew, and yet no way of escape seemed possible.
Nodding affably to the proprietor, he sat down on the floor of a shop hard
by and watched Amos. The old man was evidently interested, for he was
laughing pleasantly, and bending down to look at something on the ground.
What it was Gregorio could not see. A knot of people, also laughing,
surrounded the Jew. Gregorio was curious to see what attracted them, but
fearful of being recognised by the old man. However, after a few moments
his impatience mastered him, and he stepped up to the group.
"What is it?" he asked one of the bystanders.
"Only a baby. It's lost, I think."
Gregorio pushed his way into the centre of the crowd and suddenly became
white as death.
There, seated on the ground, was his own child, laughing and talking to
himself in a queer mixture of Greek and Arabic. Amos was bending kindly
over the youngster, giving him cakes and sweets, and making inquiries as
to the parents.
A chill fear seized on Gregorio's heart. He could not have explained the
cause, nor did he stay and try to explain it. Quickly he broke into the
midst of the circle and, catching up the boy in his arms, ran swiftly
Having reached home, he kissed the boy passionately, sent for food to
Madam Marx, and wept and laughed hysterically for an hour. After a time
the boy slept, and Gregorio then paced up and down the room, smoking, and
puffing great clouds of smoke from his mouth, trying to calm himself. But
he could not throw off his excitement. He imagined the awful home-coming
had he not been to the bazaar, and he wondered what he would have done
then. A great joy possessed him to see his son safe, and a fierce desire
filled him to know who had taken the child away. He longed for Xantippe's
return that he might tell her. He forgot completely that he had dreaded
seeing her earlier this evening. Then he began to wonder what Amos was
doing at the fantasia, and why he was so interested in the boy. Perhaps,
Amos would forgive the debt for love of the child. The idea pleased him,
but he soon came to understand that it was untenable. Oftener, indeed, he
shuddered as he recalled the old man's figure bent over the infant. A
sense of danger to come overwhelmed him. In some way he felt that the old
man and the child were to be brought together to work his, Gregorio's,
Suddenly he heard a footstep on the stairs. "Thank God!" he cried, as he
ran to the door.
But he recoiled as if shot, for as the door opened Amos entered. The Jew
bowed politely to the Greek, but there was an unpleasant twinkle in his
eyes as he spoke.
"You cannot offer me a seat, my friend, so I will stand. We have met
already this evening."
Gregorio did not answer, but placed himself between the Jew and the child.
"I dare say you did not see me," the old man continued, quietly, "for you
seemed excited. I suppose the child is yours. It was surely careless to
let him stray so far from home."
"The child is mine."
"Ah, well, it is a happy chance that you recovered him so easily. And now
"I am listening."
"I have already, as of course you know, been here to see you about the
money you owe me. I was sorry you did not see fit to pay me, because I had
to sell your furniture, and it was not worth much."
"I have no money to pay you, or I would have paid you long ago. I told you
when I went to your house that I could not pay you."
"And yet, my friend, it is only fair that a man who borrows money should
be prepared to pay it back."
"I could pay you back if you gave me time. But you have no heart, you
Jews. What do you care if we starve, so long as—"
"Hush!" said Amos, gravely; "I have dealt fairly by you. But I will let
you go free on one condition."
"And that is?"
"That you give me the child."
Gregorio stood speechless with horror and rage at the window, and the old
man walked across the room to where the infant lay.
"I have no young son, Gregorio Livadas, and I will take yours. Not only
will I forgive you the debt, but I will give you money. I want the child."
"By God, you shall not touch him!" cried Gregorio, suddenly finding voice
for his passion.
He rushed furiously at Amos, gripped him by the throat, and flung him to
the far side of the room. Then he stood by his child with his arms folded
on his breast, his eyes flashing and his nostrils dilated. Amos quickly
recovered himself, and, in a voice that scarcely trembled, again demanded
"Go away," shouted Gregorio; "if you come here again, I will kill you.
Twice now have I saved my boy from falling into your hands."
"I wish only to do you a service. You are a beggar, and I am rich enough,
ask Heaven, to look after the child. Why should you abuse me because I
offer to release you from your debts if you will let me take the child?"
Gregorio answered brusquely that the Jew should not touch the boy. "I will
not have him made a Jew."
"Then you will pay me."
"I will not. I cannot."
"I shall take measures, my friend, to force you to pay me. I have not
dealt harshly with you. I came here to help you, and you have insulted me
and beaten me."
"Because you are a dog of a Jew, and you have tried to steal my son."
A nasty look came into the Jew's eyes,—a cold, cunning look,—and
he was about to reply when the door opened and Xantippe entered. She was
well dressed, and wore some ornaments of gold. Amos turned toward her,
asking the man:
"This is your wife?"
But Gregorio told Xantippe rapidly the history of his adventures with the
boy; and the woman, hearing them, moved quietly to the corner where he
slept, and took him in her arms.
The Jew smiled. "I see," he said, "that madam has money. She has taken the
advice I gave you the other day. Now I know that you can pay me, and if
you do not within two days, Gregorio Livadas, you will repent the insults
you have heaped on my head this night."
He walked quietly to the corner of the room, where Xantippe sat nursing
the boy, touched the child gently on the forehead with his lips, and then
For some minutes neither Xantippe nor Gregorio spoke, but the man rubbed
the infant's forehead with his finger as if to wipe out the stain of the
VII—XANTIPPE SPEAKS OUT
At last the silence, roused only by the strident buzzing of the mosquitos,
became unendurable. Gregorio gave a preparatory cough and opened his lips
to speak, but the words refused to be born. He was unnerved. The odious
visitor, the wearying day, the memory of Xantippe's face at the window,
combined to make him fearful. He watched, under his half-closed lids, his
wife crouching on the far side of the boy. Once or twice, as he was
rubbing the youngster's forehead, his fingers touched those of his wife as
she waved off the mosquitos; but at each contact with them he shivered and
his fears increased. He tried, vainly, to get his thoughts straight, and
lit a cigarette with apparent calmness, swaggering to the window; but his
legs did not cease to tremble, and the unsteadiness of his gait caused
Xantippe to smile as she watched him. Resting by the window, Gregorio
widened the lips of the lattice and let in a stream of moonbeams that
rested on wife and child, illumining the dark corner.
"Have you told me all? Is there nothing else to tell em about our son and
Gregorio felt he must now speak; it was not possible to keep silence
longer. He was pleased that his wife had begun the conversation, for it
seemed easier to answer questions than to frame them. "I have told you the
whole story. There is no more to tell. It was by accident I found him in
the bazaar, and that devil Amos was bending over him. I could kill that
"What good would that do?"
"Fancy if we had lost the boy! Think of the sacrifices we have made for
him, and they would have been useless."
"Have you made any sacrifices, Gregorio?"
The question was quietly asked, but there was a ring of irony in the sound
of the voice, and Gregorio, to shun his wife's gaze, moved into the
friendly shadows. For some minutes he did not answer. At length, with a
nervous laugh, he replied:
"Of course. We have both made sacrifices, great sacrifices."
"It is odd," pursued Xantippe, gently, as if speaking to herself, "that
you should so flatter yourself. You professed to care for me once; you
only regard me now as a slave to earn money for you."
"It is for our son's sake."
"Is it for our son's sake also that you sit with Madam Marx, that you
drink her wine, that you kiss her?"
Gregorio could not answer. He felt it were useless to try and explain,
though the reason seemed to him clear enough.
"I am glad to have the chance," continued Xantippe, "of talking to you,
for we may now understand each other. I have made the greatest sacrifice,
and because it was for our son's sake I forgave you. I wept, but, as I
wept, I said, 'It is hell for Gregorio too.' But when I looked from the
window this afternoon I knew it was not hell for you. I knew you did not
care what became of me. It was pleasant for you to send me away to make
money while you drank and kissed at the Penny-farthing Shop. I came
suddenly to know that the man had spoken truth."
"What man?" asked Gregorio, huskily.
"The man! The man you bade me find. Because money is not gathered from the
pavements. You know that, and you sent me out to get money. When I first
came back to you I flung the gold at you; it burned my fingers, and your
eagerness for it stung. But I did not quite hate you, though his words had
begun to chime in my ears: 'In my country such a husband would be
horsewhipped.' When you were kind I was little more than a dog you liked
to pet. I thought that was how all women were treated. I know differently
now. You will earn money through me, for it is my duty to my son, but you
have earned something else."
"Yes?" queried Gregorio.
"My hate. Surely you are not surprised? I have learned what love is these
last few days, have learned what a real man is like. I know you to be what
he called you, a cur and a coward. I should never have learned this but
for you, and I am grateful, very grateful. It is useless to swear and to
threaten me with your fists. You dare not strike me, because, were you to
injure me, you would lose your money. You have tried to degrade me, and
you have failed. I am happier than I have ever been, and far, far wiser.
When a woman learns what a man's love is, she becomes wiser in a day than
if she had studied books for a hundred years."
Xantippe ceased speaking and, taking her son in her arms, closed her eyes
and fell asleep quietly, a gentle smile hovering round her lips.
Gregorio scowled at her savagely, and would have liked to strike her, to
beat out his passion on her white breast and shoulders. But she had spoken
only the truth when she said he dare not touch her. With impotent oaths he
sought to let off the anger that boiled in him. He feared to think, and
every word she had uttered made him think in spite of himself. The events
of sixty hours had destroyed what little of good there was in the man.
Save only the idolatrous love for his child, he scarcely retained one
Little by little his anger cooled, his shame died out of him, and he began
to wonder curiously what manner of man this was whose words had so stirred
his wife. Wondering he fell asleep, nor did he awaken till the sun was
While eating his breakfast he inquired cunningly concerning this wise
teacher of the gospels of love and hate, but Xantippe for a time did not
"Is he a Greek?"
Suddenly Gregorio felt a kind of cramp at his heart, and he had to pause
before he put the next question. He could scarcely explain why he
hesitated, but he called to mind the Paradise cafe and the red-faced
Englishman. He was ready enough to sacrifice his wife if by so doing money
might be gained, but he felt somehow hurt in his vanity at the idea of
this ugly, slow-witted Northerner usurping his place. With an effort,
however, he put the question:
"Is he an Englishman?"
He was seized with a tumult of anger. He spoke volubly, talking of the
ignorance of the English, their brutality, their dull brains, their stupid
pride. Xantippe waited till he had finished speaking and then replied
"It cannot matter to you. It is my concern. You have lost all rights to be
angry with me or those connected with me."
Gregorio refused to hear reason, and explained how he begrudged them their
wealth and fame. "For these English are a dull people, and we Greeks are
"I do not agree with you," Xantippe replied. "I have learned what a man is
since I have known him, and I have learned to hate you. You may have more
brains—that I know nothing of, nor do I care. He could not behave as
you have behaved, nor have sacrificed me as you have sacrificed me. Some
of his money comes to you. You want money. Be satisfied."
Gregorio felt the justice of her words, and he watched her put on her hat
and leave the room. A minute later, looking out of the window, he saw her
link her arm in that of the Englishman of the Paradiso, and across the
street, at the threshold of the Penny-farthing Shop, Madam Marx waved her
hand to himself and laughed.
VIII—A DESOLATE HOME-COMING
Toward the evening of a day a fortnight later, Gregorio found himself
seated in Madam Marx's cafe, idly watching the passers-by. He was feeling
happier, for that was being amassed which alone could insure happiness to
him. Each day some golden pieces were added to the amount saved, and the
cafe at Benhur seemed almost within his grasp. The feeling of security
from want acted as a narcotic and soothed him, so that the things which
should have troubled him scarcely interested him at all. He was
intoxicated with the sight of gold. When he had first seen Xantippe and
the Englishman together his anger had been violent; but when at last the
futility of his rage became certain, his aggressive passion had softened
to a smouldering discontent that hardly worried him, unless he heard some
one speak a British name. His prosperity had destroyed the last vestiges
of shame and soothed his illogical outbursts of fury. He was contented
enough now to sit all day with Madam Marx, and returned to his home in the
evening when Xantippe was away. He had spoken to her only once since she
had told him she hated him. He had strolled out of the cafe about midday
and entered his room. Xantippe was there, talking to her child, and
quietly bade him go away.
"It's my room as well as yours," Gregorio had answered.
"It is my money that pays for it," was the reply.
A long conversation followed, but Xantippe met the man's coarse anger with
quiet scorn, and told him that if he stayed she would grow to dislike her
son since he was the father.
Gregorio was wise enough to control his anger then. For he knew that if
she were really to lose her love for the boy, all his chances, and the
boy's chances, of ease and prosperity would be destroyed. It was, of
course, ridiculous to imagine she would supply him with money then. That
she thoroughly loathed him, and would always loathe him, was very certain.
So great, indeed, seemed her contempt for him that it was quite possible
she might come to hate his child. So he did not attempt to remain in the
room, but as he closed the door after him he waited a moment and listened.
He heard her heave a sigh of relief and then say to the little fellow,
"How like your father you grow! My God! I almost think I hate you for
being so like him." Gregorio shuddered as he ran noiselessly downstairs.
He never ventured to speak to her again. He argued himself out of the
disquiet into which her words had thrown him. He knew it was difficult for
a woman to hate her child. The birth-pains cement a love it requires a
harsh wrench to sever. He easily persuaded himself, as he sipped Madam
Marx's coffee, that if he kept in the background all cause for hatred
would be removed. As for her feelings toward himself, he had ceased,
almost, to care. The money was worth the cost paid in the attainment of
it, and a woman's laugh was less sweet to him than the chink of gold and
silver pieces. On the whole Gregorio had little reason to be troubled;
only unreasoning dislike for the Englishman—why could not he be of
any other nation, or, if an Englishman, any other Englishman?—hurt
his peace of mind. And for the most part his discontent only smouldered.
Madam Marx brought her coffee and sat beside him. Her face betokened
satisfaction, and she looked at Gregorio with a possessive smile. She had
gained her desire, and asked fortune for no other gift.
"You have not seen Xantippe since she turned you out? Ah, well, it is much
better you should keep away. You are welcome here, and it is foolish to go
where one is not wanted."
"I've not seen her; I'm afraid to see her." He spoke openly to madam now.
"Some women are queer. If she had ever really loved you, she would not
have thrown you over. I should not have complained had I been in her
place. One cannot always choose one's lot."
"It's that damned Englishman who has spoiled her."
"Ah, yes, those English! I know them."
"Did I tell you what she said about the boy?"
"Yes, my friend. But as long as you don't worry her, her words need not
"They don't, except sometimes at night. I wake up and remember them, and
then I am afraid."
"Why do you hate the Englishman? To my mind it is lucky for both of you
that this Englishman saw her. There are not men so rich as the English,
and he is a rich Englishman. You are lucky."
"I hate him."
"Because he has stolen your wife's love?" Madam Marx, as she put the
question, laid her fat hand upon Gregorio's shoulder and laughed
confidently. The movement irritated him, but he never tried to resist her
"No, not quite that. I'm used to it, and the money more than compensates
me. But I hated the man when I first saw him in the Paradise. There was a
fiddler-woman he talked to, and he could scarcely make himself understood.
He had money, and he gave her champagne and flowers. And I was starving,
and the woman was beautiful."
Madam tapped his cheek and smiled.
"The woman can't interest you now. Also you have money—his money."
"Still I hate him."
"You Greeks are like children. Your hatred is unreasonable; there is no
cause for it."
"Unreasonable and not to be reasoned away."
"Well, why worry about him? He won't follow you to Benhur, I fancy."
"It doesn't worry me generally; but when you mention him my hate springs
up again. I forget him when I am by myself."
"Forget him now."
And they drank coffee in silence.
Darkness came on, and the blue night mist. Gregorio was impatient to see
his son. He gazed intently at the door of the opposite house, little
heeding madam, who was busy with preparations for the evening's
entertainment of her customers. Suddenly he saw a woman leave the house,
hail a passing carriage, and drive rapidly down the street toward the
Place Mehemet Ali. Gregorio, with a cry of pleasure, rose and left the
cafe. Madam Marx followed him to the door and called a good-night to him.
Gregorio stood irresolutely in the middle of the road. He had promised the
boy a boat, and he blamed himself for having forgotten to buy it.
Grumbling at his forgetfulness, he hurried along the street, determined to
waste no time. On occasions he could relinquish his lazy, slouching gait,
and he would hurry always to obey the commands of the king his son. A
pleasant smile at the thought of the pleasure his present would cause
softened the sinister mould of his lips, and he sang softly to himself as
he moved quickly cityward.
Before he had gone many yards an oath broke in upon the music, and he
darted swiftly under the shadow of a wall; for coming forward him was Amos
the Jew. But the old man's sharp eyes detected the victim, and, following
Gregorio into his hiding-place, Amos laid his hand upon the Greek.
"Why do you try to hide when we have so much to say to one another?"
Gregorio shook himself from the Jew's touch and professed ignorance of the
necessity for speech.
"Come, come, my friend, the money you borrowed is still owing in part."
"But you will be paid. We are saving money; we cannot put by all we earn—we
"I will be paid now; if I am not, you are to blame for the consequences."
And with a courtly salute the Jew passed on. Now Gregorio had not
forgotten his debt, nor the Jew's threats, and he fully intended to pay
what he owed. But of course it would take time, and the man was too
impatient. He realised he had been foolish not to pay something on
account; but it hurt him to part with gold. He determined, however, to
send Amos something when he returned home. So good a watch had been kept,
he never doubted the child's safety. But it would be awkward if Amos got
him put in jail. So he reckoned up how much he could afford to pay, and,
having bought the toy, returned eagerly home. He ran upstairs, singing a
barcarole at the top of his voice, and rushed into the room, waving the
model ship above his head. "See here," he cried, "is the ship! I have not
forgotten it." But his shout fell to a whisper. The room was empty.
With a heartbroken sob the man fell swooning on the floor.
IX—A DISCOVERY AND A CONSPIRACY
For long he lay stretched out upon the floor in a state of
half-consciousness. He could hear the mosquitos buzzing about his face, he
could hear, too, the sounds of life rise up from the street below; but he
was able to move neither arm nor leg, and his head seemed fastened to the
floor by immovable leaden weights. That his son was lost was all he
How long he lay there he scarcely knew, but it seemed to him weeks. At
last he heard footsteps on the stairs. He endeavoured vainly to raise
himself, and, though he strove to cry out, his tongue refused to frame the
words. Lying there, living and yet lifeless, he saw the door open and Amos
enter. The old man hesitated a moment, for the room was dark, while
Gregorio, who had easily recognised his visitor, lay impotent on the
floor. Before Amos could become used to the darkness the door again
opened, and Madam Marx entered with a lamp in her hand. Amos turned to see
who had followed him, and, in turning, his foot struck against Gregorio's
body. Immediately, the woman crying softly, both visitors knelt beside the
sick man. A fierce look blazed in Gregorio's eyes, but the strong words of
abuse that hurried through his brain would not be said.
"He is very ill," said Amos; "he has had a stroke of some sort."
"Help me to carry him to my house," sobbed the woman, and she kissed the
Greek's quivering lip and pallid brow. Then rising to her feet, she turned
savagely on the Jew.
"It is your fault. It is you who have killed him."
"Nay, madam; I had called here for my money, and I had a right to do so.
It has been owing for a long time."
"No; you have killed him."
"Indeed, I wished him well. I was willing to forgive the debt if he would
let me take the child."
A horrid look of agony passed over Gregorio's face, but he remained silent
and motionless. The watchers saw that he understood and that a tempest of
wrath and pain surged within the lifeless body. They stooped down and
carried him downstairs and across the road to the Penny-farthing Shop. The
Jew's touch burned Gregorio like hot embers, but he could not shake
himself free. When he was laid on a bed in a room above the bar, through
the floor of which rose discordant sounds of revelry, Amos left them.
Madam Marx flung herself on the bed beside him and wept.
Two days later Gregorio sat, at sunset, by Madam Marx's side, on the
threshold of the cafe. He had recovered speech and use of limbs. With
wrathful eloquence he had told his companion the history of the terrible
night, and now sat weaving plots in his maddened brain.
Replying to his assertion that Amos was responsible, Madam Marx said:
"Don't be too impetuous, Gregorio. Search cunningly before you strike.
Maybe your wife knows something."
"My wife! Not she; she is with her Englishman. Amos has stolen the boy,
and you know it as well as I do. Didn't he tell you he wanted the child? I
met him that night, and he told me if I did not pay I had only myself to
blame for the trouble that would fall on me."
"Come, come, Gregorio, cheer up!" said the woman; for the Greek, with head
resting on his hands, was sobbing violently.
"I tell you, all I cared for in life is taken from me. But I will have my
revenge, that I tell you too."
For a while they sat silent, looking into the street. At last Gregorio
"My wife has not returned since that night, has she?"
"I have not seen her."
"Well, I must see her; she can leave the Englishman now."
Madam Marx laughed a little, but said nothing.
"There is Ahmed," cried Gregorio, as a blue-clad figure passed on the
other side of the street. He beckoned to the Arab, who came across at his
"You seem troubled," he said, as he looked into the Greek's face; and
Gregorio retold the terrible story.
"You know nothing of all this?" he added, suspiciously, as his narrative
"My God! it is so awful I thought all the world knew of it. You often
nursed and played with the boy?"
"Ay, and fed him. We Arabs love children, even Christian children, and I
will help you if I can."
"Why should Amos want the boy?" asked Madam Marx, as she put coffee and
tobacco before the guests.
"Because I owe him money, and he knew the loss of my son would be the
deadliest revenge. He will make my son a Jew, a beastly Jew. By God, he
shall not, he shall not!"
"We must find him and save him," said the woman.
"He will never be a Jew. That is not what Amos wants your son for; there
are plenty of Jews." Ahmed spoke quietly.
"They sacrifice children," he continued, after a moment's pause; "surely
you know that, and if you would save your boy there is not much time to
Gregorio trembled at Ahmed's words. He wondered how he could have
forgotten the common report, and his fingers grasped convulsively the
handle of his knife.
"Let us go to Amos," he said, speaking the words with difficulty, for he
was choking with fear for his son.
"Wait," answered the Arab; "I will come again to-night and bring some
friends with me, two men who will be glad to serve you. We Arabs are not
sorry to strike at the Jews; we have our own wrongs. Wait here till I
"But what will you do?" asked Madam Marx, looking anxiously on the man she
loved, though her words were for the Arab.
"Gregorio will ask for his son. If the old man refuses to restore him, or
denies that he has taken him, then we will know the worst, and then—"
Gregorio's knife-blade glittered in the sunset rays, as he tested its
sharpness between thumb and finger. The Arab watched with a smile. "We
understand one another," he said. There was no need to finish the
description of his plan. With a solemn wave of his hand he left the cafe.
"That man Ahmed," said Madam Marx, "has a grudge against Amos. It dates
from the bombardment, and he had waited all these years to avenge himself.
I believe it was the loss of his wife."
"Amos made her a Jewess, eh?" And then, after a pause, Gregorio added:
"So we can depend on Ahmed. To-night I will win back my son or—"
"Or?" queried madam, tremblingly.
"Or Amos starts on his journey to hell. God, how my fingers itch to slay
him! The devil, the Jew devil!"
X—AT THE HOUSE OF AMOS
As Ahmed had advised, Gregorio settled himself patiently to await the
summons. Madam would have liked to ask him many questions, and to have
extracted a promise from him not to risk his life in any mad enterprise
his accomplice might suggest. But though the Greek's body seemed almost
lifeless, so quietly and immovably he rested on his chair, there was a
restless look in his eyes that told her how fiercely and irrepressibly his
anger burned. She knew enough of his race to know that no power on earth
could stop him striking for revenge. And she trembled, for she knew also
that directly he had begun to strike his madness would increase, and that
only sheer physical exhaustion would stay his hand.
Madam Marx was unhappy, and as she waited on her customers her eyes rested
continually on the Greek, who heeded her not. Once she carried some wine
to him, and he drank eagerly, spilling a few drops on the floor first.
"It's like blood," he muttered, and smiled. Madam hastily covered his
mouth with her trembling fingers.
Just before midnight Ahmed arrived with his two friends. Gregorio saw them
at once, and, calling them to him, they spoke together in low voices for a
few moments. There was little need for words, and soon, scarcely noticed
by the drinkers and gamblers, they passed out into the street and walked
slowly toward the Jew's house. Ahmed rapidly repeated the plan of action.
When they reached the door they stood for a moment before they woke the
Arab, and these words passed between them:
"For a wife."
"For a sister."
"For a son."
Gregorio then demanded admittance and led the way, followed by his three
friends. He had visited the house of Amos before, on less bloody but less
delightful business, and he did not hesitate, but strode on to where he
knew the Jew would be. His companions stood behind the curtain, awaiting
Amos looked somewhat surprised at the Greek's entrance, but motioned him
to a seat, and, as on the occasion of his first visit, clapped his hands
together as a signal that coffee and pipes were required.
"It is kind of you to come, for doubtless you wish to pay me what is
"I wish to pay you."
"That is well. I hope you are better again. I regretted to find you so ill
two nights ago."
"I am better."
The conversation ceased, for Gregorio was restless and his fingers itched
to do their work. Something in his manner alarmed Amos, for he summoned in
two of his servants and raised himself slightly, as if the better to avoid
an attack. But he continued to smoke calmly, watching the Greek under his
"I have another piece of business to settle with you."
"Do you want to borrow more money because I refuse to lend you any?"
"No; it is you who have borrowed, and I have come to you to receive back
"I fail to understand you."
Gregorio tried to keep calm, but it was not possible. Rising to his feet,
he bent over the Jew and cried out:
"Give me back my son, you Jew dog!"
"Your son is not here."
"You lie! by God, you lie! If he is not here you have murdered him."
"Madman!" shouted Amos, as the Greek's knife flashed from its sheath; but
before he or his servants could stay the uplifted arm the Jew sank back
among his cushions, wounded to the heart. With a shout of triumph and a
"Death of all Jews!" Gregorio turned savagely on the servants and,
reinforced by his companions, soon succeeded in slaying them. Then leaving
the dead side by side, the four men dashed through the house seeking fresh
victims. Ten minutes later they were in the street again, dripping with
the blood of women and men, for in their fury they had killed every human
being in the house.
Down the narrow native streets they pushed on quickly, hugging the
shadows, toward the Penny-farthing Shop. Madam Marx, her ears sharpened by
fear, heard them, admitted them by a side door, and led them quickly to an
upper room. Thither she carried water and clean garments, but dared not
ask any questions. Sick with anxiety, she re-entered the bar and waited.
At length the murderers appeared and called for coffee, and Madam Marx
attended to their wants. In a few minutes the Egyptians left, and Gregorio
and she were alone. Coming near him, she placed her hand timidly on his
shoulder, and asked him, in a hoarse whisper, to tell her what had
"My son was not there."
"Well, you can guess the rest. Not one person remains alive of that
Madam Marx gasped at the magnitude of the crime, and though her terrors
increased, her pride in the man capable of so tremendous revenge increased
"What will happen to you?" she found voice to ask.
"Nothing. I must hide here. We were not seen. Besides, you remember the
last time a Greek murdered a Jew—it was at Port Said—the
matter was hushed up. Our consuls care as little for Jews as we do. My
God, how glad I am I killed him!"
His eyes were fixed on the street as he spoke, and suddenly he started to
his feet. Madam rose too, and clung to him. He pushed her roughly on one
side, while an evil smile played on his lips.
"By God, she shall come back now!"
"Xantippe. There is no need for her to live with the Englishman now. Our
son is dead and the Jew in hell. I will at least have my wife back."
"She will not come."
"She will come. By God, I will make her! I have tasted blood to-night, and
I am not a child to be treated with contempt. I say I will make her come."
"But if she refuses?"
"Then I will take care she does not go back to the Englishman."
"You will—" but madam's voice faltered. Gregorio read her meaning
and laughed a yes.
"But, Gregorio, think; you will be hanged for that. You wife is not a
But Gregorio laughed again and strode into the street. He was mad with
grief and the intoxicating draughts of vengeance he had swallowed. He
strode across the road and mounted the stairs with steady feet. Madam Marx
followed him, weeping and calling on him to come back. As he reached the
door of his room she flung herself before him, but he pushed her on one
side with his feet and shut the door behind him as he entered.
Lying on the threshold, she heard the bolt fastened, and knew the last act
of the tragedy was begun.
XI—HUSBAND AND WIFE
As Gregorio entered the room, Xantippe, who was kneeling by a box into
which she was placing clothes neatly folded, turned her head and said
"You are impatient, my friend; I have nearly—"
But recognising Gregorio, she did not finish the sentence. She sat down on
the edge of the box. Her face became white, and the blood left her lips.
With a great effort she remained quiet and folded her hands on her lap.
Gregorio looked at her for a moment, a cruel smile making his sinister
face appear almost terrible, and his bloodshot eyes glared at her
savagely. At last he broke the silence by shouting her name hoarsely,
making at the same time a movement toward her. He looked like a wild
animal about to spring upon his prey. Xantippe, however, did not flinch,
"I am not deaf. What do you want here?"
"It is my room; I suppose I have a right to be here."
"I apologise for having intruded."
"None of your smooth speeches. The Englishman has schooled you carefully,
I see. Can you say 'good-bye' in English yet?"
"Why should I say 'good-bye'?"
"It is time. You will come back to me now."
Gregorio laughed hysterically and stood beside her. His fingers played
with her hair. In spite of her fear lest she should irritate him, Xantippe
shrank from his touch. Gregorio noticed her aversion and said savagely:
"You must get used to me, Xantippe. From to-night we live together again.
It is not necessary now for you to earn money."
"I shall not come back to you. I have told you I hate you. It is your own
fault that I leave you."
"It will be my fault if you do leave me."
He pushed her on to the mattress and held her there.
"Let us talk," he said.
For a few minutes there was silence, and then he continued:
"Amos is dead, and our debts are paid."
"How did you pay them?"
"With this," and as he spoke he touched the handle of his knife. "Don't
shudder; he deserved it, and I shall be safe in a few days. These affairs
are quickly forgotten. Besides, there is another reason why we should not
live as we have lately been living."
Xantippe opened her eyes as she asked, "What reason?"
Gregorio relaxed his hold, for the memory of his loss shook him with sobs.
Cat-like, Xantippe had waited her opportunity and sprang away from his
grasp. The movement brought the man to his senses. He rushed at her with
an oath, waving the knife in his hand. Xantippe prepared to defend
herself. They stood, desperate, before each other, neither daring to begin
the struggle. Through the awful silence came the sound of sobs and a
plaintive voice crying:
"Gregorio, come back, leave her; I love you."
"Is Madam Marx outside?" hissed Xantippe.
"Then go to her. I tell you I hate you." She pointed to the half-filled
box—"I was going to leave here to-night. I will never return to
"You were going with the Englishman?"
"He is a man."
Gregorio paused a moment, then in a suppressed voice, half choking at the
"Our son—do you know what has happened to him? You shall not leave
"I know about our son. I am glad to think he is away from your evil
influence. Let me pass." Xantippe moved toward the door, but Gregorio
seized her by the throat.
"You are glad our son is killed; you helped Amos to kill him."
Rage and despair impelled him. Laughing brutally, he struck her on the
breast, and, as he tottered, sent his knife deep into her heart. For a few
seconds he stood over her exulting, and then opened the door. Madam Marx,
white with fear, rushed into the room. Seeing the murdered woman, a look
of triumph came into her eyes. But it was a momentary triumph, for she
realised at once the gravity of the crime. She had little pity or sorrow
to waste on the dead, but she was full of concern for the safety of the
"This is a bad night's work, Gregorio."
"Is it? She deserved death. I am glad I killed her. God, how peacefully I
shall sleep tonight!"
"This is a worse matter than the other, my friend; you must get away from
here at once."
"Let us leave the corpse; I am thirsty," Gregorio answered, callously.
With a last look at Xantippe dead upon the floor, the two left the room
and made fast the bolt before descending the stairs. As they emerged from
the doorway into the street, some police rode by, and Gregorio trembled a
little as he stood watching them.
"I want a drink; I am trembling," he said, huskily, and followed Madam
Marx into the shop.
The sun was beginning to rise, and already signs of a new life were
stirring. The day-workers appeared at the windows and in the streets.
"You must get away at night, Gregorio, and keep hidden all day."
"All right. Give me some wine. I can arrange better when my thirst is
After drinking deeply he turned and laughed. "It has been a busy time
Then, as if a new idea suddenly struck him, he queried cunningly, "There
will be a reward offered?"
"I suppose so."
"Then you will be a rich woman."
Madam Marx flung herself at his feet and wept bitterly. The blow was a
cruel one indeed. Eagerly she entreated him to retract his words. She
reminded him of all she had done for him, of all she would still do. A
sort of eloquence came to her as she pleaded her cause, and Gregorio,
weary with excitement, kissed her as he asked:
"But why should you not give me up?"
"Because I love you."
Neither blood nor cruelty could stain him in her eyes.
At last her passion spent itself; calmed and soothed by Gregorio's caress
she realised again the danger her lover ran. Vainly were plans discussed;
no fair chance of escape seemed open. At last Gregorio said:
"I shall leave here to-night for Ramleh and live in the desert for a time.
If you help me we can manage easily. When my beard is grown I can get back
here safely enough, and the matter will be forgotten. You must collect
food and take it by train to the last station, and get the box buried by
Ahmed near the palace. I can creep toward it at night unseen."
"But I will come to you at night and bring food and drink."
"No. That would only attract attention. You must not leave your customers.
But the drink is the worst part of the matter. I must have water. Get as
many ostrich-eggs as you can, and fill them with water, and seal them.
Hide these with the food, and I will carry some of them into the farther
desert and bury them there."
"Gregorio, if all comes right you will not be sorry you killed her?"
"She hated me. I shall not be sorry."
And Madam Marx smiled and forgot her fears.
XII—IN THE DESERT AND ON THE SEA
By the last train leaving Alexandria for Ramleh, the next evening,
Gregorio sought to escape his pursuers. He had heard from Ahmed on the
platform, just before starting, that Xantippe's body had been discovered,
and that already the police were on his track. He sat in a corner of a
third-class carriage closely muffled, and eyeing his neighbours
suspiciously. He sighed with relief as the train moved out of the station
and began to pass by the sand-hills and white villas, showing ghost-like
in the damp mist.
When he reached St. Antonio he saw the lights of the casino blazing
cheerfully, and the pure clear desert air invigorated him. Fascinated by
the glare, he strolled toward the casino and decided, in spite of the
risk, to enter. He watched from a corner the players, and greedily coveted
the masses of gold and silver piled in pyramids behind the croupiers. He
heard the violins playing Suppe's overture, and the remembrance came
vividly to him of the Paradiso and the fair girl with whom the Englishman
talked. The exciting events following that evening passed before him—a
An hour fled quickly away; then he sought the solitude of the desert, and,
having collected into a bag as much food and as many eggs as he could
carry, he walked away over the sands.
Under the stars he dug holes wherein to bury the eggs, and marked the
spots with stones; then, wrapping himself in his cloak, lay down to sleep.
All next day he loitered idly about, shunning the gaze of every wandering
Arab. When evening came he drew near to the palace to seek for food. To
his horror, the box had not been refilled. At first he hardly realised how
awful was his plight. Then the truth dawned upon him. Ahmed and Madam Marx
must have been arrested. He drew near to the casino and stood under the
open windows listening. A cold shudder ran down his back, his face grew
pale, and his lips trembled, for he heard two men discussing the murder
and the capture of his friends. An involuntary smile lighted up the gloom
of his features for a moment as one remarked that the chief offender, the
woman's husband, had eluded pursuit. Then he crept back into the desert
and waited for the dawn.
The sun rose, fiery and relentless, glittering on the waters of Aboukir,
and the cloudless heaven blazed like a prairie on fire. At midday, when
its rays fell straight upon him, his thirst became intense, and with
feverish fingers he dug up an egg. It was empty. He tossed it away and
dragged himself to another hole. The second egg was empty. In turn he dug
up all his eggs, and all alike were empty. Improperly sealed, scantily
covered by the sand, the water had evaporated. A great despair seized him;
he called on God in his anguish, and the silence of the desert terrified
him. In a fit of desolate anger he pulled off his cap, and summoned all
the saints, Christ, and God Himself, to enter it, and then trampled on it,
laughing wildly. Then he flung himself upon the sand, his head still left
bare to the pitiless sun. He knew the end had come, but there was not any
regret in his heart for his crimes, only an impotent dismay and anger at
his solitary condition. The thirst increased every minute, and he gripped
the sand with his fingers in his agony. His last word was an oath.
At sunset he was dead.
Two days later Madam Marx left Alexandria by train for Ramleh. There was
no evidence against her, and she had soon been released. Her own trouble
scarcely disconcerted her; she had feared only for the Greek in the
desert. The thought of his agony, his hunger, goaded her nearly to
madness; but she was a little comforted when she remembered the eggs.
There was enough water in them to last him two or three days. It was the
hour of sunset when she arrived, and she instantly set out desertward,
carrying a basket containing wine and food. She had determined to live at
the hotel until the days of persecution were past. The heavy sand made it
hard to proceed rapidly, but she struggled on bravely, and when far enough
from civilisation called aloud the signal-word agreed on. But no one
answered. All through the night she wandered, searching, till within an
hour of sunrise; then she gave way and sat weeping on the sand. With
daylight she rose to her feet, determined to find her lover, but had
scarcely gone twenty yards before, with a low cry of grief, she knelt
beside the body of a dead man. In the half-eaten, decayed features she
recognised Gregorio and knew she had come too late. Undeterred by the
hideous spectacle, she kissed him tenderly and lay beside him.
The sun mounted slowly in the heavens.
The living figure lay as lifeless as the dead. But after a while the woman
rose and dug with her hands a hollow in the sand. She heeded not the heat,
nor the flight of time, and by evening her work was done.
Raising the body in her arms, she carried it to the hollow and laid it
gently down, then tearfully shovelled back the sand till it was hidden. So
Gregorio found a tomb. Nor did it remain unconsecrated, for beside it
Madam Marx knelt and spoke with faltering lips the remnants of the prayers
she had learned when a child. As she prayed she watched vaguely a steamer
disappear behind the horizon.
The khedival mail-boat Ramses sped swiftly over the unruffled
surface of the sea. At the stern a tall fair Englishman sat looking on the
level shores of Egypt and the minarets of Alexandria. With a sad smile he
turned to the child who called to him by his name. They were a strange
pair, for the boy was dark, and foreign-looking, and there was something
of cunning in his restless black eyes. The man's large hand rested softly
on the raven curls of the youngster as he muttered to himself:
"For her sake I will watch over you, and you shall grow up to be a true
So Xantippe's life had not been lived in vain, for she had loved and been
loved, and her memory was sweet to her lover. Moreover, Gregorio's dreams
of wealth for his son were to find fulfilment, and the sand of the desert,
maybe, lies lightly on him.