Veiled Women

Veiled Women

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Excerpt from Veiled Women
"If good the news, O bird, alight and welcome;
If bad, draw up thy claws and hie away!"
At the corner of a lofty housetop overlooking a great part of Cairo, a woman stood with arms uplifted and solemnly addressed a crow which seemed about to settle. The bird, as if the meaning of the chant had reached him, turned in the air with clumsy flapping, and withdrew, rising to join the hundreds of his kind which circled high above the city bathed in early sunlight. The woman shook her fist at his receding shape, glass bracelets tinkling on her strong brown arm. She sighed, "The curse of God on thy religion, O thou faithless messenger!" then, with a laugh, turned round to join the group of slave-girls, her companions, sent up to lay out herbs to dry upon the roof. These had watched her invocation of the crow with knowing grins. But one, a young Circassian, who sat watching while the others worked, betrayed surprise and asked the meaning of the little ceremony.
At that there was much giggling.

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