It was perhaps the first act of open hostility, and there was really nothing in the scene or circumstance to provoke an unfriendly demonstration.
On the broad racing ground of the Khedivial Club a number of the officers and men of the British Army quartered in Cairo, assisted by a detachment of the soldiers of the Army of Egypt, had been giving a sham fight in imitation of the battle of Omdurman, which is understood to have been the death-struggle and the end of Mahdism.
The Khedive himself had not been there—he was away at Constantinople—and his box had stood empty the whole afternoon; but a kinsman of the Khedive with a company of friends had occupied the box adjoining, and Lord Nuneham, the British Consul-General, had sat in the centre of the grand pavilion, surrounded by all the great ones of the earth in a sea of muslin, flowers, and feathers. There had been European ladies in bright spring costumes; Sheikhs in flowing robes of flowered silk; Egyptian Ministers of State in Western dress, and British Advisers and Under-Secretaries in Eastern tarbooshes; officers in gold-braided uniforms, Foreign Ambassadors, and an infinite number of Pashas, Beys, and Effendis.
Besides these, too, there had been a great crowd of what are called the common people, chiefly Cairenes, the volatile, pleasure-loving people of Cairo, who care for nothing so little as the atmosphere of political trouble. They had stood in a thick line around the arena, all capped in crimson, thus giving to the vast ellipse the effect of an immense picture framed in red.
When Helena awoke next morning she was immediately conscious of a great commotion both within and without the house. After a moment Zenoba came into the bedroom and began to tell her what had happened.
"Have you not heard, O Rani?" said the Arab woman, in her oily voice. "No? You sleep so late, do you? When everybody is up and doing, too! Well, the Master has news that the great Bedouin is at Omdurman and he is sending the people down to the river to bring him up. The stranger is to be received in the mosque, I may tell you. Yes, indeed, in the mosque, although he is English and a Christian."
Then Ayesha came skipping into the room in wild excitement.
"Rani! Rani!" she cried. "Get up and come with us. We are going now—this minute—everybody."
Helena excused herself; she felt unwell and would stay in bed that day; so the child and the nurse went off without her.
Yet left alone she could not rest. The feverish uncertainty of the night before returned with redoubled force, and after a while she felt compelled to rise.
Going into the guest-room she found the house empty and the camp in front of it deserted. She was standing by the door, hardly knowing what to do, when the strange sound which she had heard on the night of the betrothal came from a distance.
New National Theatre, Wm. H. Rapley, manager, Wm. H. Fowler, treasurer. Viola Allen as Roma in a dramatization by Mr. Hall Caine of his novel "The Eternal City," incidental music composed and arranged by Signore Pietro Mascagni, produced under the stage direction of E.W. Presbrey, Liebler & Co., managers.
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