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HOME > Classical Novels > The Last Egyptian > CHAPTER XXIII. MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.
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As the dragoman approached S?ra’s hut he paused upon the threshold to observe the scene within, hesitating, as he remembered that it was because of his own reckless conduct that the Nile girl had been stripped of her beautiful gowns and jewels and sent home from Cairo scorned and repudiated.

Her humiliation and despair had haunted him ever since.

But now he found her seated meekly at the well-worn loom, casting the shuttle back and forth with the same mechanical lassitude she had exhibited of old. The discolored black dress, open at the breast and much patched and torn, was her sole garment. Even the blue beads were again about her neck.

But the eyes she turned toward Tadros were different, somehow. Their former velvety depths were veiled with a dull film, while the smoothness of her brow was marred by the wrinkles of a sullen frown.

After a moment, however, she seemed to recognize the dragoman, and rose from her place with a sudden eager look and flushed cheeks.

“You have come for me again?” she asked.

“No,” answered Tadros, casting himself upon a settle. He felt abashed without knowing why he should{252} entertain such a feeling—abashed and sorrowful, in spite of his habitual egotism and selfish disregard of others.

Nephthys leaned back and resumed her weaving. The film covered her eyes again. She paid no further attention to her mother’s guest.

S?ra, however, was voluble and indignant.

“That Kāra,” she hissed, “is a viper—a crocodile—a low, infamous deceiver! He is worse than an Arab. Henf! If I had him here I would stamp him into the dust. Why did he spurn my beautiful daughter from his harem? Tell me, then!”

“Merely because Nephthys and I, being old friends, wished to converse at times of you and our acquaintances at Fedah. Why should we not gossip and smoke a cigarette together? Once I owned her myself.”

“True. You were a fool to sell her.”

“Still, you must not forget that Nephthys has had an experience,” he resumed, more lightly. “For a time she was a queen, splendid and magnificent beyond compare in her robes of satin and her sparkling jewels. Ah, it is not every girl who enjoys such luxury, even for a brief season! Let her be content.”

“Content!” screamed old S?ra, shrilly; “it has ruined her. She is no longer happy in the old home, and when she speaks, which is but seldom, it is only to curse Kāra. Look at her! Is she now fat and beautiful as before? No. If the poor child lives long enough, she will die a skeleton!”{253}

“Allah forbid!” exclaimed Tadros, hastily. “But if she expects to be taken back again, her case is hopeless. I am sure Kāra will never relent or restore her to favor. He is a poor judge of a woman. But I,” slapping his chest proudly, “I will take Nephthys to myself; and while I do not promise to robe her as gorgeously as did Kāra, she shall become fat again, and have her silks and ornaments the same as before.”

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