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scription once thoughtlessly and then ●once more with marked attention.▓ Then keeping his eyes on Hamid’●s face he takes a deep breath and op●ens the envelope to read wh


atever is written▓ on the half sheet of note-paper.For a minute▓ he studies it and then replace●s the letter in the envelope.He look▓s about him with a sudden change of expressi●on, as if he suddenly felt si▓ck and was looking about for a place wh●ere he might be so.He makes h

is way t▓hrough the crowd and putting h

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is head against● a corner of mud wall utters a short panting ▓sob, as of a runner out of breat▓h.Then he turns back to the ●car, completely controlled and dry-eyed, to●


complete his packing.This brief inci▓dent goes completely unremarked by the rest of▓ his guests.Clouds of dust rise now as the● cars begin to draw away towards the city; the ▓wild gang of boatmen shout and wa●ve and treat us to carved water-melon smile●s studded with gold and ivory.Hamid opens the c▓ar door and climbs in like a monkey.‘What is● it’ I say, and folding his small hands apo●logetically towards me in an attitude of suppl●ication which means ‘Blame not the bear●er of ill tidings’ he says ●in a small conciliatory voic▓e: ‘Master, the lady has gone.●There is a letter for you in the house.’ It is▓ as if the whole city h

ad crashed about my e▓ars: I walk slowly to the flat, aimless▓ly as survivors must walk abou▓t the streets of their native city after an e▓arthquake, surprised to find how m●uch that had been familiar has changed, Rue Pir▓oua, Rue de France, the Terbana Mosque (cupboard▓ smelling of apples), Rue Sidi Abou El Abbas ▓(water-ices and coffee), Anfouchi, Ras El ●Tin (Cape of Figs), Ikingi Mariut (ga▓thering wild flowers together, convin▓ced she cannot love me), equestria▓n statue of Mohammed Ali in the squ●are….General Earle’s comical little bust,● killed S

udan 1885….An evening multitud●inous

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the book he is w●riting about her.‘She sits in the wick●er chair with her hands in her● lap, as if posing for a portrait, but ●with a look of ever-growing horror on her fac●e.At last I can stand it no longer, ●and I throw down the manuscript i▓n the fireplace, crying out: ▓“What are they worth, since you ●understand nothing, these p


a▓ges written from a heart pie▓rced to the quick” ’ In my mind’s eye I c▓an see Nessim racing up the great staircase▓ to her room to find a distraught Selim contempl▓ating the empty cupboards and a dressing tab▓le swept clean as if by a blow f●rom a leopard’s paw.In the harbo●ur of Alexandria the sirens

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