Halima was satisfied with this excuse, but begged Leonisa to tell her dear Mario to spare himself the trouble and her the delay he proposed, for she would give him, at once, whatever the cadi required for his ransom. Before Ricardo went with his answer to his master, he consulted Mahmoud as to what it should be.
Halima herself affirmed it, standing at the front door of her terraced dwelling in the court, while the other dancers gathered round, looking like a troop of macaws in their feathers and their finery. With a brazen pride she boasted that she possessed something worth more than uncut rubies, carpets from Bagdad, and silken petticoats sewn with sequins. And the Ouled Naïls could not gainsay her.
I believe that Halima, our mistress, is listening to us: she has told me that she adores you, and has sent me here as her intercessor. If you will respond to her desires, you will consult the interest of your body more than of your soul; and if you will not, you must feign to do so, were it only because I request it, and for sake of what is due to the declared desires of a woman."
Thus did the wind begin to shift in Ricardo's favour, his master and mistress working for him without knowing it; and the first who began was Halima, as was to be expected of her, for it is the nature of women ever to be prompt and bold where their pleasures are concerned.
"It is true," answered Ben-Abid. "Thou art a liar!" cried Halima. "And so art thou!" said Ben-Abid slowly. A deep murmur rose from the crowd, which pressed more closely beneath the terrace, staring up at the scarlet figure upon it. "If I am a liar thou canst not prove it!" cried Halima furiously. "I spit upon thee! I spit upon thee!"
As Grand Dukes who go to disport themselves in Paris sometimes hie them incognito to the "Café de la Sorcière," so do Aghas flit occasionally to Touggourt, and appear upon the high benches of the great dancing-house of the Ouled Nails in the outskirts of the city. And Halima was young and beautiful. Her eyes were large, and she wore a golden crown ornamented with very tall feathers.
He advised her to conciliate Halima, the wife of his master the cadi, with whom she was to remain until she was sent to Constantinople, and of whose character he gave her some details. Having given her this and other useful counsel, he arrived at the cadi's house, and delivered her over to Halima along with his master's message.
I can only say that we must practise, what would not be expected from us, dissimulation and deceit. I will repeat to Halima some phrases on your part which will rather encourage than make her despair; and you may tell the cadi whatever you think may serve, with safety to my honour, to keep him in his delusion.
The assembled smokers breathed out under the black ceiling their deep refrain of "Wur-ra-Wurra!" and Larbi, in his Zouave jacket and his tight, pleated skirt, threw back his small head, exposing his long brown throat, and danced like a tired phantom in a dream. Ben-Abid smiled, showing two rows of lustrous teeth. "Should Halima fall ill, the foot will not avail to cure her," he murmured.
On the 6th of June, three days after the burial of Kazounde's king, Negoro entered the factory, where he had not yet set foot since his return. He went right to the hut occupied by his prisoner. Mrs. Weldon was alone. Cousin Benedict was taking one of his scientific walks. Little Jack, watched by the slave Halima, was walking in the enclosure of the establishment.