284 Material for a Projected Sequel
and many beautiful birds whose names I knew not. Through
the trees I could see the snow-fields of Ida far above me, but
it was hopeless to think of reaching them. The soldiers and
Ahmed cooked the trout and the eggs all together; then we
had boiled eggs, bread and cheese and, of course, more lamb's
liver done on skewers like cats' meat. I ate with my pocket-
knife, the others using their fingers in true Homeric fashion.
When we had put from us " the desire of meat and drink/1
Ismail began to talk to me. He said he had now for the first
time in his life found himself in familiar conversation with
Wisdom from the West (that was me), and that, as he greatly
doubted whether such another opportunity would be ever
vouchsafed to him, he should wish to consult me upon a
matter which had greatly exercised him. He was now fifty
years old and had never married. Sometimes he thought he
had done a wise thing, and sometimes it seemed to him that
he had been very foolish. Would I kindly tell him which it
was and advise him as to the future ? I said he was addressing
one who was in much the same condition as himself, only that
I was some ten years older. We had a saying in England that
if a man marries he will regret it, and that if he does not
marry he will regret it.
" Ah ! " said Ismail, who was leaning towards me and trying
to catch every word I spoke, though he could not understand
a syllable till Yakoub interpreted my Italian into Turkish.
" Ah ! " he said, " that is a true word.'1
In my younger days, I said (may Heaven forgive me!), I
had been passionately in love with a most beautiful young
lady, but—and here my voice faltered, and I looked very sad,
waiting for Yakoub to interpret what I had said—but it had
been the will of Allah that she should marry another gentle-
man, and this had broken my heart for many years. After a
time, however, I concluded that these things were all settled
for us by a higher Power.
•" Ah! that is a true word."
" And so, my dear sir, in your case I should reflect that if
Allah " (and I raised my hand to Heaven) " had desired your
being married, he would have signified his will to you in some
way that you could hardly mistake. As he does not appear to
have done so, I should recommend you to remain single until
you receive some distinct intimation that you are to marry."