For the Hand of Haleem
WASHINGTON STREET had not yielded to the music of the band ; the ears of Syrians are racked by brass and reed in the muscular mouths of men who fix their understanding upon strange, black signs — glaring with their eyes at the printed page — and hold their hearts in the leash. It is contained in the first writings of Khalil Khayat, the editor, whom all men honor, that noise is born of the servitor Intellect, but music is child of the Wandering Soul; and Khalil Khayat, as men know, speaks with authority concerning the things of the hidden heart of man. The relief of space and breeze and evening shadow, the repose of sprawling, and low, easy chatter,—the long full breath of the day’s end, — had drawn the swarthy people to Battery Park ; the band disturbed the solemn night, as a trivial word a funeral, — obscuring the distant, long-drawn whistles in which, as Nageeb Fiani says, there is more music for some ears ; and drowning the twitter and rustle in the trees, and the restful swish of the waves breaking against the sea wall. Battery Place and Whitehall, from the old to the urchins thereof, had come, frankly eager, to hear the band. Rag time and sentimental ballads — itching soles and a fleeting thought of love — move the native young of the tenements to double-shuffles and tears, fast follow as they may; and there is no resisting the impulses if the hearts beat true. So Battery Place and Whitehall made love and skylarked near the band stand; and Washington Street mooned afar off in the outlying shadows.
The roguish influence of Love in hiding shifted young Alois Awad, Ameer of the seventh generation, and Haleem, Khouri’s sloe-eyed daughter, to the solitude of the edge of the crowd; and Alois, having glutted his eyes with the crimson and gray and gold of the train of the sun, turned, as with the courage of impulse, and whispered, desperately, the disquieting words. “ What did Antar say of Abla, his beloved, the daughter of Malik, when his heart was sore ? ” he asked ; and he thought she must surely hear the complainings of his heart.
“ To his beloved ? ” She lingered over the last word.
“To the beloved of his heart,” he answered, solemn as an earnest child.
“ It is known to you, O Alois,” she said, with a quick, trustful smile. “ Therefore, how shall my ignorance fret me ? I — I — think all things are known to you,” she went on softly. “ All things written, anyway; for Khalil Khayat has taught you.”
Haleem bent her head ; and the breeze, verily as though won to the sport of love, fluttered a tress of black hair out of place to hide the arch light in her eyes.
“ This, Antar said,” Alois faltered, pushing his tarboosh up from his hot, wet brow. “ This, he ” — Alois’s throat was suddenly parched stiff ; nor could he form one more word.
“ Are the words hard to recall ? ”
“ No-o ; the words are well known to me.” Haleem brushed back the fluttering tress, and the sight of her little hand and the bloom on her cheeks gave Alois the swift confidence of infatuation. He pointed to the flaring sky over the Jersey shore. “ These,” he went on, “ are the words of Antar, spoken of his beloved : ‘ The sun as it sets turns toward her and says, “ Darkness obscures the land, do thou arise in my absence.” The brilliant moon calls out to her, “ Come forth, for thy face is like me when I am at the full and in all my glory.” The tamarisk trees complain of her in the morn and in the eve, and say, “ Away, thou waning beauty, thou form of the laurer! ” She turns away abashed, and throws aside her veil, and the roses are scattered from her soft, fresh cheeks. . . . Graceful is every limb; slender her waist; love-beaming are her glances; waving is herform. . . . The lustre of day sparkles from her forehead, and by the dark shades of her curling ringlets night itself is driven away. . . . Will fortune ever, O daughter of Malik, ever bless me with thy embrace ? That would cure my heart of the sorrows of love !’ ”
The voice of young Alois had risen from husky stuttering to the cadence of rapture ; thus, always, the poetry of love moved him. The words were Antar’s spoken, in times long past, on a sandy waste, far, far away from where the elevated engine snorted over the long, smutty curve to the South Ferry terminal; but the vibrant anguish and the pleading of the last cry, the eternal passion, were of the pregnant moment, young Alois’s. They rang true in the ears of Haleem ; and her heart answered, leaping, yet afraid, as a cub lion, captive born, might sniff and whine with its first breath of the jungle. Ah, she was a daughter of the land, was little Haleem ! It was the first bold word of love she had heard; and it was as though, now, suddenly, she had come to the crest of a hill, and a fair, broad land, a land of gardens and rivers and shady places, — her land, the very riches of her womanhood, — was spread at her feet, with a sure path to tread, and a golden vista, leading whither the sun was rising, all rosy. So her heart throbbed, and there was a new, strange pain in it; and she wrung her little hands cruelly, — though Alois would have given a year for a kiss of the flushing finger tips, — and she turned her brown eyes to the harbor, where there was nothing to delight in them — though Alois could have wandered lifelong in their depths. For, indeed, she was very much afraid.
“ Antar,” Alois stammered, perceiving, and ready to weep for regret that he had disquieted her, “ he — he — was a bold man. Shame to him, if she suffered ! ”
“ He loved her very much.”
“ Ho ! ” Alois exclaimed. “ His love was very great! Did he not carry her off from the tents of her people, even against their spears ? ”
“ Had he so great courage ? ” Haleem’s breath came fast again ; she stared, thus panting, at the unwieldy Annex Ferry and its luminous track of foam.
“Ah,” Alois sighed, “there is a gentler way, and ” —
“ Haleem ! Little daughter ! ” Salim Khouri, to whom fat came with prosperity, had waddled within hearing distance ; and his was the asthmatic call. He came up puffing, but smiling a broad, indulgent smile. “ Little Star,” he said in the dialect, taking one of Haleem’s thick braids in his chubby hand to fondle it, “ now, ain’t she a little star, Alois ? Ha-a-a-a! ” His eyes twinkled with affection for her. He moved his arm to the bench rail at her back ; and she sank against his comfortable breast, and, from this safe, familiar place, flashed an inscrutable smile to Alois, that strangely gave him courage. “ She no star,” Khouri went on in broken English. “ She ’lectreek light. Ho, ho! That’s w’at.”
“ Little Star — Little Star,” Alois said in the classic Arabic. “ That is better — Little Star ! ”
“ ’Lectreek light,” Haleem pouted. “ My father he say ’lectreek light.”
Now Alois reproached himself for having blurted out his passion in the ear of his helpless well-beloved after the rough Western fashion, — taking advantage of the liberty of the land, forgetful of the gentler, solemn way of his people; and so shamed was he in his own sight that, soon, he could bear to sit no longer with Haleem and her father, but craved to be where, in solitude, he could vent the impulse of his heart. So he said a flushing, shamefaced good-night and went away; and, wandering without aim, he came to the place where the fireboat lay purring in her dock. This was a quiet place, shaded by the Aquarium from the noise of the band. He sat down where there was a view of the darkening harbor, — the shadows had long hidden Staten Island, and were then closing round the Statue of Liberty, — and, as he thought dreamily of his own beloved, the words of Antar, spoken in ecstasy, hurried, crowding, through his thoughts, weaving themselves with them, for they had been in his mind many days: “‘Were I to say thy face is like the full moon of heaven, where in that full moon is the eye of the antelope ? Were I to say thy shape is like the branch of the erak tree, oh, thou shamest it in the grace of thy form! In thy forehead is my guide to truth ; and in the night of thy tresses I wander astray. Thy teeth resemble stringed jewels; but how can I liken them to lifeless pearls ? Thy bosom is created as an enchantment, — oh, may God protect it ever in that perfection ! ’ ” Now, the last prayer possessed him utterly. Again and yet again he said the words; and the high cry, welling from his heart, made his soul to tingle. His eyes were suffused with tears; he looked up, and it was as though a holy light, falling through wide, glowing gates, threw all things near into shadow ; and when the heaving, slimy water at his feet took form again, he was not so sad as he had been.
“ Oh, may God protect it ever in that perfection ! ” he sighed. “ Little Star! ”
Elsewhere in the crowded, dusky park, Jimmy Brady was looking, sharp-eyed, for his “ li’l’ peach.” Affecting a loud merriment to deceive his heart into quieter beating, he pried through the crowd around the band stand, searched the benches near the barge office, threaded his way through the moving, chattering throng on the broad promenade near the sea wall, and traversed swiftly the quiet interior walks. Though tempted by the invitation in many a sweet, bright eye, he suspended his quest only to cuff a bullying urchin and caress the dirtier bullied one; and then he hesitated long enough to catch and cuff the bully again for making the first cuffing so obviously a duty. Thus, while Alois Awad gazed out over the darkened harbor, young Jimmy Brady — in the pride of his job at Swartz and Rattery’s, in the glory of his white duck trousers and rolled-gold jewelry and natty new red tie, in the hope of his merry, sanguine temperament — searched persistently for Haleem the sloe-eyed, his “ li’l’ peach,” to tell her that he loved her. This was Jimmy of the snapping eye and gentle heart and broad shoulders and ready tears and quick right fist and laughing rejoinder and springy step and bulldog purpose and strengthening pull on the alderman of the ward and vocabulary of five hundred words. Lord, he had words enough ! It is the kiss and the hug — the heart — when it comes to love. The girls of the tenements would be better off if their steadies were all like him ; for liker him, liker the Man. I know him — I know them all; and that which I write is true.
“ Ho ! Meester Brady. Good-evenin’, sair,” said Khouri the merchant, when Jimmy came, beaming, to where he sat with Haleem ; and the little star looked up shyly and nestled closer to her father’s breast, that she might conceal the confusion that strangely overcame her always when Jimmy Brady came suddenly into view.
“Wake ’er up! Say, wake ’er up,” Jimmy jerked out ; and then he burst into a loud laugh. “ Say, she’s in a trance.”
“ She ees seek — no,” Khouri answered in concern, scratching his head.
“ Aw, I ’m on’y stringin’ y’u,” Jimmy said quickly. “ Say, w’ere d’ y’u buy yer dope ? Ain’t y’u on ? ” He looked at the old man in sly amusement, which Haleem’s light titter fired into a laugh ; then he caught Haleem by the arm and drew her insistently, gently, to her feet, and held her there. “ Aw, come on,” he went on ; and the wheedling tone was tinged with a certain imperiousness that sounded sweet in Haleem’s ears and drew a swift, confident glance to his face. “ It’s the time we walk. Ain’t that right ? ”
“ Meester Brady — yes,” she answered softly. “ I go weeth you.”
“ Ho ! ” Khouri exclaimed, looking off down the walk. “ My frien’, Meester Khayat, he come. I see heem. He have somethin’ to say. Ver-ee important. Eet have to do weeth the Sultan of Turkey. I see eet een hees face, eet ees so — so — long, so ver-ee long. Ho, ho ! Take her weeth you, Meester Brady. Take her; sure, eet ees the Land of Liberty ! ”
Young Jimmy, in the silence of deepest suspense, led his “ li’l’ peach ” to a deserted bench, over which a kindly spreading bush cast a seclusive shadow ; and there they sat down, having spoken not one single word on the way. Haleem gave him many an observant side glance in the meek, covert way her people know; and now, as his lithe strength and bold, eager face impressed her young heart anew, it flashed over her ecstatically that this was Antar, born again, and she, Abla, his beloved, whom he had carried off in the night, triumphantly, even against the spears of his enemies ; and she closed her eyes, and wished that the green bench and the flagstones and the salty breeze and the swinging, glaring arc lamp and all the chatter might be changed, magically, as of old, into a swift-coursing steed and the sands of the desert and the free hot breath of the night and a million twinkling stars and the cries of pursuing enemies. As for Jimmy, he wondered at his fading courage, and, laughing doubtfully in his sleeve, thought of the young light-weight he had seen in the squared circle at the Eagle Athletic Club the night before, overmatched, without a chance of winning — but game, game to the finish !
“ Meester Brady,” Haleem said at last, poking fun at him in her sly way, “you have say we walk. You forget. Eet ees fun-ee.”
“ Eh ! ” Jimmy ejaculated; then staring abstraction took hold of him again.
The distant band struck up a swinging music-hall song — about the Only Girl — that then ran riot in men’s ears. The music and the voices of the people, singing, came, mellowed and undulant, through the space between.
“ Y’u ’re it! ” Jimmy burst out explosively ; he turned to her, but stopped dead, shivering.
“ It ? W’at ees eet — it ? ” she asked, pursing her lips.
“ Her ! Y’u ’re her ! Lord, y’u ’re slow ! ” Jimmy’s voice would have savored of disgust had it not been saturated with a deeper emotion.
“ Hair ? ” “ The On’y One — me Honey ! ” Jimmy had the anxious face of a man on trial, when the foreman of the jury stands up solemnly, and the court room is hushed.
“ Ah,” she sighed, shaking her head, “ I do not know eet.”
“ Can’t y’u hear ’em sing ? ” he planted. “ Ain’t y’u got no ears ? Y’u 're it, I tell y’u. Y’u ’re — y’u ’re — her ! ”
The song came out of the distance again, blurred by the wind, which swept it from side to side.
“ Hear it! ” said Jimmy, raising his hand.
Haleem prettily cocked her ear, and listened. The heart of Jimmy was going like a piston rod, and he was gulping to keep his throat moist and fit.
“ Just one girl, only just one girl;
There are others, I know, but they ’re not my pearl.
Just one girl, only just one girl;
I’d be happy forever with just one girl.”
“ Ain’t y’u on?” Jimmy asked in a drawn, hollow whisper. “ Ain’t it penetrated yet ? ” His honest heart was near to bursting ; he hitched closer and looked down in her eyes, craving the light of love. “ Y’u ’re it — me honey — me sweet thing! ” Did he, after all, have words enough ? He went on desperately, plunging to the end. “Follo’ me? Can’t y’u see ? Me honey — the on’y one — me peach ! ” There was no responsive light in Haleem’s eyes—only a wondering shadow. His passion disclosed itself slowly. The shameful, effeminate words were forced out of his throat; but he gulped long before he would give them utterance. “ I love y’u!" he cried tremulously, stretching his arms out. “ Hell! I love y’u ! ” Then he took her hand, and waited for a sign ; and he was white and groggy, and he knew it.
Haleem put her handkerchief to her eyes, and cried quietly ; but she left her little hand lying inclosed in Jimmy Brady’s great, thrilling palms.
“Drop it! Stop it!” Jimmy exclaimed impulsively, his own lips twitching ; for he thought he had his sign. “ Don’t y’u cry any more, li’l’ girl. I ain’t got no kick comin’. I take me punishment like a man. Look at me! Cast yer orb on me face ! ” He turned a brave face up to her; but she would not look, and had she looked, she would have seen tears in his eyes, — but not tears of pity for himself ; then, he was regretting only her distress. “ It’s all right,” he went on doggedly. “ Don’t cry. I ain’t goin’ t’ say any more. I’m done, I tell y’u. Y’u ’ll git a better man ’n me. It’s all right. There ain’t no kick comin’ here, — honest, there ain’t. Stop it! ” he cried in agony. “ Y’u 're breakin’ me heart. I did n’t mean t’ make y’u cry. I ’m takin’ me punishment all right.” He pulled her hand away from her eyes; and through her tears she smiled at him. “ That’s all right, li’l’ girl,” he crooned. “ Y’u won’t be bothered wit’ me any more. I’m hurt,” he moaned. “ Oh, I’m hurt awful ; but it ’s all right. Y’u ’ll git a better man. Come on home now, li’l’ girl. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt y’u. I know w’en I’m licked.”
He left her at the door of her father’s house ; and she watched him swing down Rector Street to West, whistling bravely as he went; and she went upstairs, very solemn, and she asked her heart many times that night whether she was sad or happy, but her heart was silent.
“ Oh,” she sobbed to her pillow, “ why do I not know whom I love ? Ah, it is so sad! ”
Now, when, on the next morning, Salim Khouri the merchant, portentously solemn, sat himself down in his great chair, waiting for his narghile to be made ready, — for it was Sunday, —and told her, while she filled the bowl and blew the charcoal into a glow and handed him the long tube, that Khalil Khayat had made offer for her hand for young Alois Awad, Ameer of the seventh generation, the Light of his Eyes, she knew whom she loved. Then, indeed, she knew that she loved Jimmy Brady ; and she thought there was no man to compare with him in strength and beauty and courage ; but she said, blushing, that she would have her answer ready when Khalil Khayat should call in the evening, and went out with a numb heart to tell the beloved of her heart that, indeed, he must love her no more ; for she was a dutiful daughter. But why should she tell Jimmy Brady this ? Ah, for the touch of his hand again ! What was the courage of the new Antar ? She would trust herself in the depths of his eyes ! What would he venture? Her purpose weakened; she hesitated ; she pressed on. Ha, she thought, clinching her little fists, she would dare him to try to carry her off ! She pulled her blouse into a snug fit about her little waist, and pressed the massive silver comb into place in her willful hair, and touched the ribbon at her throat, — pressing on, all the while, to Battery Park. Little Innocence! Where, then, was the joy of Alois the Ameer ? What was its peril ?
“ But my father he say, ‘ Eet ees the country of liberty,’ ” she thought. “ Eef I marry queek, he say, ‘ O Leetle Star, w’y you not tell ol’ father ? Leetle Star — naughty Leetle Star. You marry ? Shame — not tell ol’ father ! ’ Then I cry, — I mus’ cry, I feel so bad, — an’ he say, ‘ Sh-h, Leetle Star ! You happy ? ’ An’ I say, ‘Yes, I lofe heem.’ An’ he say, ' Come, I hug you. He good man,’ he say. ‘ I know heem. Come, I hug you.’ An’ he hug me, an’ he — he — anger no more.” She paused. “I tell w’at other man lofe me ? No ; he weel keel heem. I tell — no. Eet ees bes’ — not.” Then she determined, with a toss of her head, “I marry — no — nobody! ”
In the evening of that day, Khalil Khayat sat with Alois Awad, the Light of his Eyes, in the back room of the coffeehouse of Nageeb Fiani, which, as men know, is on Washington Street, not far up from Battery Place, and may there be found any day. They were waiting for the time to come when Khalil Khayat should go to the house of Salim Khouri the merchant, to hear the answer of Haleem, his daughter ; and they were smoking, heavily, silently, each busy with fantastic dreams. The old man was listening, in fancy, to the prattle of children, feeling their soft hands in his gray hair, their soft lips against his cheek, — voices and hands and lips not of children of his blood, but of the blood of the Light of his Eyes; and his face reflected his capering thoughts. Looking into the depths of the smoke cloud — here, ever, was the charm of the narghile — he saw himself a shadowy old man in a shadowy great chair set in a shadowy corner, telling dream tales, that now trooped from the nowhere into misty view, to little children of shadowy, solemn feature upon his knee. Now, the dream chased the old, sad expectation of lonely senile age out of thought, and suffused his dark, melancholy face with the light of sudden hope ; so that, childlike himself, he chuckled his joy, when the dream leaped out of bounds. But Alois Awad trembled in his chair, and drew swift sighs, and sought distraction in the jumbled pattern of the wall paper and the voices in the outer room, and consumed a hundred matches to keep his cigarettes alight, and was vacant and flushed by turns, nor found relief in anything. Two dreams fought for place in his mind ; and he would harbor neither, the one for that he would not dread it, the other for that he dared not entertain it.
“ Thy house is to be mine, as though thou wert my son ? ” Khalil Khayat asked tenderly. “ Is it not so, Alois Awad ? In our love for each other was it not so agreed ? ”
“ It is even so, as I have said many times, Khalil, my friend,” Alois answered, crushing his impatience. “ And the chair by the window — and the books — and — and all that we have dreamed.”
“ Ah! It is new happiness to hear the words again. And thy children are to be to me as though thou wert my very son ? ”
“ As I have said many times, Khalil; it is even so.”
“ There is a restful certainty in repetition ! I am to tell them stories of the heroes of our people. Is it not so ? I am to teach them the Language Beautiful. Have I not so spoken ? ”
“ How often, Khalil! ”
“ Perchance,” Khayat pursued, in wistful speculation, “ perchance there will be a poet among them. Who knows ? ” he continued solemnly. “ It may be that the son of your loins, the child of my teaching, shall some day — some day ” — “ Ah, it is a dream, Khalil! ” Alois cried, sweeping his hand over his eyes.
“ But the Language needs a poet ! The Temple is crumbling ! Where ” — “ Dream no more, Khalil! ”
Khayat shrugged his shoulders. “ It is a large dream, Alois,” he said composedly. “ But let us delight ourselves in it.”
Alois looked up at the dingy ceiling, and sighed soulfully. “ It may be,” he whispered, “ that my happiness shall fail.” Then he clasped his hands, and raised them, and cried passionately, “ ‘ Will fortune ever, O daughter of Malik, ever bless me with thy embrace ? ’ ” The old one looked at the young one quizzically, saying, “The Arabs say, ‘ Had the bird been good to eat, the pursuit of the hunter would not have been faint-hearted.’” Alois smiled, and Khayat went on, “ It is near time. I shall start now for the house of Salim Khouri for the answer, — for the answer of little Haleem to the Light of my Eyes.”
Khayat sat still in his chair; for Jimmy Brady came swiftly through the outer room, crying buoyantly : “ Hello, Fiani ! Lord, ain’t it hot ? Ain’t old man Khayat here ? ” His heartiness was infectious ; all the men laughed sympathetically as he passed by. He burst into the little back room. His chest was swelling ; his head was thrown back ; he was drawing his breath as though all air were pure and bracing ; his hat was on the side of his head, — fairly over the ear, jaunty, saucy ; his cigar was in the corner of his mouth and at the political angle ; his eyes were flashing. He slapped Alois on the back — a resounding thwack, that made the Syrian wince.
“ Much ’bliged,” said Alois delightedly. “ You welcome. Sit down. You happy, eh ? ”
Old Khayat rose courteously and drew out a chair. “ Be seated, Meester Brady,” he said. “ Toshi, Toshi! ” he called. “ One cup coffee, — one more, for Meester Brady. How ees your health to-day, sair ? Eet ees very warm, ees eet not ? ” There was a twinkle in Khayat’s eyes; young Jimmy Brady was acceptable in his sight.
“ Say, I’m — I ’m married,” Jimmy blurted, grinning radiantly. His voice was shrill and shaking; such was the measure of his happiness. “ Hear me ? I ’m married. I got a li’l’ wife, an’ she loves me — loves me, or she’s a liar. Ha, ha ! ” He laughed abruptly, vacantly ; then he gasped happily, and continued, as in a burst of confidence : “ It’s this way, Mister Khayat; I run away wit’ the girl, an’ the old man ain’t on yet. Now, I ain’t crawlin’ meself ; but me nerves is all gone. I want somebody t’ square it. Understand ? Somebody t’ square it—break it easy — let the old man down light. Understand ? It’s sudden, but it’s all right; there won’t be any tearin’ done. The man I want is you. Understand ? He knows y’u, an’ w’at y’u say goes wit’ him. Just break it. Follo’ me ? All y’u got t’ do is — is — tell him. Now ” —
Khayat was laughing; and Alois, now peculiarly responsive to the mood of the young lover, was smiling. Such, then, was the joy of love ! Ah, that he might know it!
“You have not told me the name of the young ladee,” Khayat interrupted, sobering. “ Who ees the dear ladee ? Can eet be that she ees a Syrian ? ”
“ She’s a Dago, all right — the prettiest li’l’ Dago y’u ever see,” Jimmy rattled, with rising emotion. “ She’s all right. Her — her heart, it’s all right, too. She — she — loves me ! ” Jimmy stretched out his hands, and lifted up his rapt face ; and continued, inspired, to describe the graces of his beloved: “ She loves me ! Say, her eyes — my Gawd ! — her li’l’ hands — her hair — say, I ’m foolish — touched ! Are y’u on ? Soft, I am — nutty ! I ain’t right in me head any more. It ’s her eyes — her li’l’ hands — her ” —
“ Ah,” said Khayat gently, “ but you have not told me her dear name. How can I have help you, eef I ” —
“ Haleem Khouri’s her name,” said Jimmy ; “ an’ she’s a beaut. Say, I’m foolish ! Her eyes is brown, an’ her hair is black.”
The muscles of Khalil Kbayat’s face stiffened in their position ; but the light of interest in his eyes expired, and it was dull in them thereafter. His heart faltered — stopped — beat on again, with slowly lessening pain. Here a muscle in his face relaxed ; there another. Muscle after muscle weakened and gave ; soon his blue, twitching face, still upturned to Jimmy Brady, wore a shallow smile, that passed, anon, into ghastliness — soon a dull melancholy — soon a look of fixed woe and weariness. Then he sighed, and let his eyes fall to his coffee cup, where he kept them, fearing the greater pain in a sight of the face of Alois Awad. Alois’s cigarette had fallen to the tablecloth, and there he let it lie, while it fired the fabric, and smouldered foully. His shoulders had fallen in ; his head was swaying like the top of a tall tree in a great wind. He kept his eyes up — forced the very smile in them to hold its place. Then his head sunk ; his body tottered ; he would have fallen, strengthless, over the table, had he not caught the edge and stiffened his arms.
“ Hi! ” Jimmy exclaimed. “ Who hit y’u?” He could not understand; here was a physical effect, but who had struck the blow ? “ Say, y’u look like a game pug after a right-hand jab on the jaw. Y’u look as if y’u was jolted fer fair. W’at — w’at’s doin’ ? ”
“Agh! ” said Alois faintly. “ I have smoke — too much smoke.”
“ Groggy an’ game an’ comin’ up t’ the scratch, eh ? ” Jimmy laughed. “ Here, drink yer water.” There was silence. Jimmy turned to Khalil Khayat. “ W’at’s doin’, I’m askin’ ? W’at ” —
Khayat held up his lean hand imperiously. “ Ox-cuse me,” he said, contorting his features into a kindly smile. “ I weel speak weeth Meester Awad een my own tongue.”
“ Cert,” said Jimmy.
Khayat turned to Alois. “Well?” he said simply ; but there was a wondrous depth of tenderness in his voice.
“ What is my love ? ” answered Alois Awad, Ameer of the seventh generation, in the purest speech of his people ; and his eyes were shining and his voice was shrill and sure, as of a prophet of high calling. “ Is it a thirst that cries for quenching ? Rather is it water freely given to a parched throat. Is it a consuming flame, to turn to ashes the joy of my beloved ? Rather is it a fire kindled in a wintry place, burning brightly in the night, that she may bask in its heat, and dream of sunlit places. Is it the night, harboring the frightful shapes of darkness ? Rather is it the twilight, and the slumber-song of the wilderness. Is it a tempest, to stir great waves to engulf the ship of her happiness ? Rather is it a favoring breeze, to speed her into port. Is it a winged arrow, the arrow of my bow, straight-aimed in the cunning of my eye, flying swiftly, seeking out her fair breast to tear it ? Oh, the cruel song of the arrow; and again, and yet again, oh, the cruel song of the arrow ! Nay ! Rather is it a shield for my beloved, — a shield encompassing her, a shield of tried steel, — my shield, defending her against the arrows of sorrow.”
“ The Light of my Eyes ! ” Khalil Khayat murmured rapturously, tingling to his finger tips. “ The Light of my Eyes ! ” He looked long in the young man’s face ; and he pulled his gray mustache tremulously, and drew long, deep ' breaths through his expanded nostrils, like a man lifted out of himself by the courage of a champion. “ I know the meaning, Light of my Eyes ! ”
“ W’at’s this ? ” Jimmy demanded, dazed. “ Somebody’s hurt — I — I — do’ know. Ain’t somebody hurt ? ”
“ I weel go weeth you,” said Khayat, rising steadily. His dark face was then emotionless. He looked absently for his hat — under the table, on the hooks, on the chairs; and he flushed when he found it on his head. “ Come ! ” he continued. “ Salim Khouri, eet ees a frien’. My words they have power weeth heem. He have respect for me. He weel forgeeve. Let me but say eet ees well, and all weel be well. She weep, have you say ? Leetle Haleem weep to go home. Let us have hurry. She weel be forgeeve. W’at I say, Khouri he weel do.” Not turning to look at Alois Awad, the Light of his Eyes, Khalil Khayat went out. His old rusty hat was on the back of his head, pulled down to his ears. He was staring absently straight before him. Was it a smile on his face ? Was it the shadow of pain ? Was it a smile touched with regret ? Men wondered as he passed along with Jimmy Brady ; and they turned to look again ; but they could not tell whether or not it was well with Khalil Khayat that day.