It was "about first-drink time," as the captain of the Tsuen-Chau, bound for Shanghai and Japan ports, observed to his friend Cesare Domenico, a good British subject born at Malta. They sat on the coolest corner in Port Said, their table commanding both the cross-way of Chareh Sultan el Osman, and the short, glaring vista of desert dust and starved young acacias which led to the black hulks of shipping in the Canal. From the Bar la Poste came orchestral strains--"Ai nostri monti"--performed by a piano indoors and two violins on the pavement. The sounds contended with a thin, scattered strumming of cafe mandolins, the tinkle of glasses, the steady click of dominoes and backgammon; then were drowned in the harsh chatter of Arab coolies who, all grimed as black as Nubians, and shouldering spear-headed shovels, tramped inland, their long tunics stiff with coal-dust, like a band of chain-mailed Crusaders lately caught in a hurricane of powdered charcoal. Athwart them, Parisian gowns floated past on stout Italian forms; hulking third-class Australians, in shirtsleeves, slouched along toward their mail-boat, hugging whiskey bottles, baskets of oranges, baskets of dates; British soldiers, khaki-clad for India, raced galloping donkeys through the crowded and dusty street. It was mail-day, and gayety flowed among the tables, under the thin acacias, on a high tide of Amer Picon.