A favorite resort of the Cairo folk is the island of Gezireh; here a long avenue of lebbek trees furnishes a fashionable promenade, while games of golf, tennis, cricket, and polo, together with the races, are a constant source of attraction. The time of our stay was drawing to a close, and Cairo was again to become "memory" with a past stretching back into centuries without number.
A vision of coolness and peace, of oriel windows chamber-windows for unreal people, jealously screened with weather-bleached meshrahiyeh work and one high balcony, the special feature of the courtyard, a dream of romantic beauty, shaded by the dark leaves of an ancient lebbek tree. It was a vision as dignified as it was touching.
Under the deep shade of lebbek trees it goes on and on, toward the Pyramids, a dark cool avenue, high above cultivated fields flooded by the Nile when the river is "up." The emerald waves of grain flow like green water to the foot of the broad dyke-road, and canals like long, tight-drawn blue ribbons are threaded through it, their ends lost to sight at the shimmering horizon.
Ptomaine Street, which took its name from her husband's own residence, was a wide, leafy avenue with a double row of fine old trees on each side. They were Lebbek trees, and the whole arrangement was patterned after the avenue which Josephine built for Napoleon, out to the Mena House. She passed the homes of the most respectable citizens.
It had been night in the palace of darkened windows but in the garden it was yet day, although the rose and gold of sunset had faded to paling pinks and translucent ambers and in the east the stars were shining in the deepening blue. It was the same garden on which her windows opened; Arlee recognized the huge lebbek tree in the center, the row of acacias, and the palms against the farthest wall.
Beneath the wide-spreading lebbek a low table was laid for luncheon with two wicker chairs beside it. The green of the fresh turf was as vivid as stage grass; the lilies loomed unreally large and white; the poinsettias flaunted like red paper flowers behind the vivid picture that the Captain made in a dazzling buff and green uniform picked out with gold.
The river-front of the town, with its hotels and shops, was brightly coloured as a row of shining shells from a southern sea; tints of pink and blue and amber, translucently clear in contrast with the dark green of lebbek trees and palms, in whose shadow flowers burned, like rainbow-tinted flames of driftwood.
She laid down the brush without using it, touched her hair with absent fingers, and crossed to the windows. She looked down into a garden, a deep tangle of a garden, presided over by a huge lebbek tree that threw a pall of shadow upon the faintly moving flowers beneath.
As we ascend the river the vegetation slowly changes; cotton and wheat, so freely grown in the Delta, give place to sugar-cane and Indian corn, and the feathery foliage of the sunt and mimosa trees is more in evidence than the more richly clad lebbek or sycamore.
The dream persisted, and the iron bars across her window were very tangible. Down below her in the garden the old lebbek tree rustled stealthily in the stillness. Gusty clouds hid the stars. In the distance the interminable tom-tom beat.