The Palace of Darkened Windows by Mary Hastings Bradley


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Page 1




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"'It is no use,' he repeated. 'There is no way out for you'"
_Frontispiece_

"'I do not want to stay here'"

"He found himself staring down into the bright dark eyes of a girl
he had never seen"

"Billy went to the mouth, peering watchfully out"




THE PALACE OF DARKENED WINDOWS



CHAPTER I

THE EAVESDROPPER


A one-eyed man with a stuffed crocodile upon his head paused before
the steps of Cairo's gayest hotel and his expectant gaze ranged
hopefully over the thronged verandas. It was afternoon tea time; the
band was playing and the crowd was at its thickest and brightest.
The little tables were surrounded by travelers of all nations, some
in tourist tweeds and hats with the inevitable green veils; others,
those of more leisurely sojourns, in white serges and diaphanous
frocks and flighty hats fresh from the Rue de la Paix.

It was the tweed-clad groups that the crocodile vender scanned for a
purchaser of his wares and harshly and unintelligibly exhorted to
buy, but no answering gaze betokened the least desire to bring back
a crocodile to the loved ones at home. Only Billy B. Hill grinned
delightedly at him, as Billy grinned at every merry sight of the
spectacular East, and Billy shook his head with cheerful
convincingosity, so the crocodile merchant moved reluctantly on
before the importunities of the Oriental rug peddler at his heels.

Then he stopped. His turbaned head, topped by the grotesque,
glassy-eyed, glistening-toothed monster, revolved slowly as the
Arab's single eye steadily followed a couple who passed by him up
the hotel steps. Billy, struck by the man's intense interest, craned
forward and saw that one of the couple, now exchanging farewells at
the top of the steps, was a girl, a pretty girl, and an American,
and the other was an officer in a uniform of considerable green and
gold, and obviously a foreigner.

He might be any kind of a foreigner, according to Billy's lax
distinctions, that was olive of complexion and very black of hair
and eyes. Slender and of medium height, he carried himself with an
assurance that bordered upon effrontery, and as he bowed himself
down the steps he flashed upon his former companion a smile of
triumph that included and seemed to challenge the verandaful of
observers.

The girl turned and glanced casually about at the crowded groups
that were like little samples of all the nations of the earth, and
with no more than a faint awareness of the battery of eyes upon her
she passed toward the tables by the railing. She was a slim little
fairy of a girl, as fresh as a peach blossom, with a cloud of pale
gold hair fluttering round her pretty face, which lent her a most
alluring and deceptive appearance of ethereal mildness. She had a
soft, satiny, rose-leaf skin which was merely flushed by the heat of
the Egyptian day, and her eyes were big and very, very blue. There
were touches of that blue here and there upon her creamy linen suit,
and a knot of blue upon her parasol and a twist of blue about her
Panama hat, so that she could not be held unconscious of the
flagrantly bewitching effect. Altogether she was as upsettingly
pretty a young person as could be seen in a year's journey, and the
glances of the beholders brightened vividly at her approach.

There was one conspicuous exception. This exception was sitting
alone at the large table which backed Billy's tiny table into a
corner by the railing, and as the girl arrived at that large table
the exception arose and greeted her with an air of glacial chill.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 15th Sep 2019, 16:47