Port turned on his heel in a rage and strode out into the court, where he made a systematic search of the cubicles from one side of the entrance to the other. But the girl was gone. Furious with disappointment, he walked through the gate into the dark street. An Arab soldier and a girl stood just outside the portal, talking in low tones. As he went past them he stared intently into her face. The soldier glared at him, but that was all. It was not she. Looking up and down the ill-lit street, he could discern two or three white-robed figures in the distance to the left and to the right. He started walking, viciously kicking stones out of his path. Now that she was gone, he was persuaded, not that a bit of enjoyment had been denied him, but that he had lost love itself. He climbed the hill and sat down beside the fort, leaning against the old walls. Below him were the few lights of the town, and beyond was the inevitable horizon of the desert. She would have put her hands up to his coat lapels, touched his face tentatively, run her sensitive fingers slowly along his lips. She would have sniffed the brilliantine in his hair and examined his garments with care. And in bed, without eyes to see beyond the bed, she would have been completely there, a prisoner. He thought of the little games he would have played with her, pretending to have disappeared when he was really still there; he thought of the countless ways he could have made her grateful to him. And always in conjunction with his fantasies he saw the imperturbable, faintly questioning face in its mask-like symmetry. He felt a sudden shudder of self pity that was almost pleasurable, it was such a complete expression of his mood. It was a physical shudder; he was alone, abandoned, lost, hopeless, cold. Cold especially—a deep interior cold nothing could change. Although it was the basis of his unhappiness, this glacial deadness, he would cling to it always, because it was also the core of his being, he had built the being around it.

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