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Title: The Bride of the Nile — Volume 09
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bride of the Nile — Volume 09" ***

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THE BRIDE OF THE NILE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 9.



CHAPTER IX.


Philippus started up from the divan on which he had been reclining at
breakfast with his old friend.  Before Horapollo was a half-empty plate;
he had swallowed his meal less rapidly than his companion, and looked
disapprovingly at the leech, who drank off his wine and water as he
stood, whereas he generally would sit and enjoy it as he talked to the
old man of matters light or grave.  To the elder this was always the
pleasantest hour of the day; but now Philippus would hardly allow himself
more than just time enough to eat, even at their principal evening meal.

Indeed, not he alone, but every physician in the city, had as much as he
could do with the utmost exertion.  Nearly three weeks had elapsed since
the attack on the nuns, and the fearful heat had still gone on in
creasing.  The river, instead of rising had sunk lower and lower; the
carrier-pigeons from Ethiopia, looked for day by day with growing anxiety
and excitement, brought no news of a rising stream even in the upper
Nile, and the shallow, stagnant and evil-smelling waters by the banks
began to be injurious, nay, fatal, to the health of the whole population.

Close to the shore, especially, the water had a reddish tinge, and the
usually sweet, pure fluid in the canals was full of strange vegetable
growths and other foreign bodies putrid and undrinkable.  The common
people usually shirked the trouble of filtering it, and it was among them
that the greater number died of a mortal and infectious pestilence, till
then unknown.  The number of victims swelled daily, and the approach of
the comet kept pace with the growing misery of the town.  Every one
connected it with the intense heat of the season, with the delay in the
inundation, and the appearance of the sickness; and the leech and his
friend often argued about these matters, for Philippus would not admit
that the meteor had any influence on human affairs, while Horapollo
believed that it had, and supported his view by a long series of
examples.

His antagonist would not accept them and asked for arguments; at the same
time he, like every one else, felt the influence of a vague dread of some
imminent and terrible disaster hanging over the earth and humanity at
large.

And, just as every heart in Memphis felt oppressed by such forebodings,
and by the weight of a calamity, which indeed no longer threatened them
but had actually come upon them, so the roads, the gardens, the palms and
sycamores by the way-side were covered by thick layers of dingy, choking
dust.  The hedges of tamarisk and shrubs looked like decaying walls of
colorless, unburnt mud-bricks; even in the high-roads the wayfarer walked
in the midst of dense white clouds raised by his feet, and if a chariot,
or a horseman galloped down the scorching street, fine, grey sand at once
filled the air, compelling the foot-passengers to shut their eyes and
lips.

The town was so silent, so empty, so deserted!  No one came out of doors
unless under pressure of business or piety.  Every house was a furnace,
and even a bath brought no refreshment, for the water had long since
ceased to be cold.  A disease had also attacked the ripening dates as
they hung; they dropped off in thousands from the heavy clusters under
the beautiful bending crown of leaves; and now for two days hundreds of
dead fish had been left on the banks.  Even the scaly natives of the
river were plague-stricken; and the physician explained to his friend
that this brought the inhabitants a fresh danger; for who could clear the
shores of the dead fish?--And, in such heat, how soon they would become
putrid!

The old man did not conceal from himself that it was hard, cruelly hard,
for the physician to follow his calling conscientiously at such a time;
but he knew his friend; he had seen him during months of pestilence two
years since--always brisk, decisive and gay, indeed inspired to greater
effort by the greater demands on him.  What had so completely altered
him, had poisoned and vexed his soul as with a malignant spell?  It was
not the almost superhuman sacrifices required by his duties;--it came of
the unfortunate infatuation of his heart, of which he could not rid
himself.

Philippus had kept his promise.  He went every day to the house of
Rufinus, and every day he saw Paula; but, as a murdered body bleeds
afresh in the presence of the assassin, so every day the old pain revived
when he was forced to meet her and speak with her.  The only cure for
this particular sufferer was to remove the cause of his pain: that is to
say, to take Paula away out of his path; and this the old man made his
care and duty.

Little Mary and the other patients under Rufinus' roof were on the way to
recovery; still there was much to cast gloomy shadows over this happy
termination.  Joanna and Pulcheria were very anxious as to the fate of
Rufinus.  No news had been received of him or of the sisters, and
Philippus was the vessel into which the forsaken wife and Pulcheria--
who looked up to him as to a kind, faithful, and all-powerful protecting
spirit-poured all their sorrows, cares, and fears.  Their forebodings
were aggravated by the fact that three times Arab officials had come to
the house to enquire about the master and his continued absence.  All
that the women told them was written down, and Dame Joanna, whose lips
had never yet uttered a lie, had found herself forced to give a false
clue by saying that her husband had gone to Alexandria on business, and
might perhaps have to proceed to Syria.--What could these enquiries
forebode?  Did they not indicate that Rufinus' complicity in the rescue
of the nuns was known at Fostat?

The authorities there were, in fact, better informed than the women
could suspect.  But they kept their knowledge a secret, for it would
never do to let the oppressed people know that a handful of Egyptians
had succeeded in defeating a party of Arab soldiers; so the Memphites
heard no more than a dark rumor of what had occurred.

Philippus had known nothing of the old man's purpose till he had gone too
far to be dissuaded; and it was misery to him now to reflect that his
dear old friend, and his whole household, might come to ruin for the sake
of the sisterhood who were nothing to them; for he had received private
information that there had been a skirmish between the Moslems and the
deliverers of the nuns, which had cost the lives of several combatants on
both sides.

And Paula!  If only he could have seen her happy--But she was pale; and
that which robbed the young girl--healthy as she was in mind and body--
of her proud, frank, independent bearing was not the heat, which
tormented all creation, but a secret, devouring sorrow; and this sorrow
was the work of one alone--of him on whom she had set her heart, and who
made, ah! what a return, for the royal gift of her love.

Philippus had frequent business at the governor's residence, and a
fortnight since he had plainly perceived what it was that had brought
Neforis into this strange state.  She was taking the opium that her
husband had had, taking it in excessive quantities; and she could easily
procure more through some other physician.  However, her piteous prayer
that Philippus would not abandon her to her fate had prevailed to induce
him to continue to see her, in the hope of possibly restricting her use
of the drug.

The senator's wife, Martina, also required his visits to the palace.  She
was not actually ill, but she suffered cruelly from the heat, and she had
always been wont to see her worthy old house-physician every day, to hear
all the latest gossip, and complain of her little ailments when anything
went wrong with her usually sound health.  Philippus was indeed too much
overburdened to chatter, but his professional advice was good and helped
her to endure the fires of this pitiless sky.  She liked this incisive,
shrewd, plain-spoken man--often indeed sharp and abrupt in his freedom--
and he appreciated her bright, natural ways.  Now and then Martina even
succeeded in winning a smile from "Hermes  Trismegistus," who was
"generally  as solemn as though there was no such thing on earth as a
jest," and in spurring him to a rejoinder which showed that this dolorous
being had a particularly keen and ready wit.

Heliodora attracted him but little.  There was, to be sure, an
unmistakable likeness in her "imploring eves" to those of Pulcheria; but
the girl's spoke fervent yearning for the grace and love of God, while
the widow's expressed an eager desire for the admiration of the men she
preferred.  She was a graceful creature beyond all question, but such
softness, which never even attempted to assert a purpose or an opinion,
did not commend itself to his determined nature; it annoyed him, when
he had contradicted her, to hear her repeat his last statement and take
his side, as if she were ashamed of her own silliness.  Her society,
indeed, did not seem to satisfy the clever older woman, who at home, was
accustomed to a succession of visitors, and to whom the word "evening"
was synomynous with lively conversation and a large gathering.  She spoke
of the leech's visits as the oasis in the Egyptian desert, and little
Katharina even she regarded as a Godsend.

The water-wagtail was her daily visitant, and the girl's gay and often
spiteful gossip helped to beguile her during this terrific heat.
Katharina's mother made no difficulties; for Heliodora had gone to see
her in all her magnificence, and had offered her and her daughter
hospitality, some day, at Constantinople.  They were very likely going
thither; at any rate they would not remain in Memphis, and then it would
be a piece of good fortune to be introduced to the society of the capital
by such people as their new acquaintances.

Martina thus heard a great deal about Paula; and though it was all
adverse and colored to her prejudice she would have liked to see the
daughter of the great and famous Thomas whom she had known; besides,
after all she had heard, she could fear nothing from Paula for her niece:
uncommonly handsome, but haughty, repellent, unamiable, and--like
Heliodora herself--of the orthodox sect.--What could tempt "great
Sesostris" to give her the preference?

Katharina herself proposed to Martina to make them acquainted; but
nothing would have induced Dame Martina to go out of her rooms, protected
to the utmost from the torrid sunshine, so she left it to Heliodora to
pay the visit and give her a report of the hero's daughter.  Heliodora
had devoted herself heart and soul to the little heiress, and humored her
on many points.

This was carried out.  Katharina actually had the audacity to bring the
rivals together, even after she had reported to each all she knew of
Orion's position with regard to the other.  It was exquisite sport;
still, in one respect it did not fulfil her intentions, for Paula gave
no sign of suffering the agonies of jealousy which Katharina had hoped
to excite in her.  Heliodora, on the other hand, came home depressed and
uneasy; Paula had received her coldly and with polite formality, and the
young widow had remained fully aware that so remarkable a woman might
well cast her own image in Orion's heart into the shade, or supplant it
altogether.

Like a wounded man who, in spite of the anguish, cannot resist touching
the wound to assure himself of its state, Heliodora went constantly to
see Katharina in order to watch her rival from the garden or to be taken
to call on her, though she was always very coldly received.

At first Katharina had pitied the young woman whose superior in
intelligence she knew herself to be; but a certain incident had
extinguished this feeling; she now simply hated her, and pricked her with
needle-thrusts whenever she had a chance.  Paula seemed invulnerable;
but there was not a pang which Katharina would not gladly have given her
to whom she owed the deepest humiliation her young life had ever known.
How was it that Paula failed to regard Heliodora as a rival?  She had
reflected that, if Orion had really returned the widow's passion, he
could not have borne so long a separation.  It was on purpose to avoid
Heliodora, and to remain faithful to what he was and must always be to
Paula, that he had gone with the senator, far from Memphis.  Heliodora--
her instinct assured her--was the poor, forsaken woman with whom he had
trifled at Byzantium, and for whom he had committed that fatal theft of
the emerald.  If Fate would but bring him home to her, and if she then
yielded all he asked--all her own soul urged her to grant, then she would
be the sole mistress and queen of his heart--she must be, she was sure of
it!  And though, even as she thought of it, she bowed her head in care,
it was not from fear of losing him; it was only her anxiety about her
father, her good old friend, Rufinus, and his family, whom she had made
so entirely her own.

This was the state of affairs this morning, when to his old friend's
vexation, Philippus had so hastily and silently drunk off his after-
breakfast draught; just as he set down the cup, the black door-keeper
announced that a hump-backed man wished to see his master at once on
important business.

"Important business!" repeated the leech.  "Give me four more legs in
addition to my own two, or a machine to make time longer than it is, and
then I will take new patients-otherwise no!  Tell the fellow.  .  .  ."

"No, not sick.  .  .  ."  interrupted the negro.  "Come long way.
Gardener to Greek man Rufinus."

Philippus started: he could guess what this messenger had to say, and his
heart sank with dread as he desired that he might be shown in.

A glance at Gibbus told him what he had rightly feared.  The poor fellow
was hardly recognizable.  He was coated with dust from head to foot, and
this made him look like a grey-haired old man; his sandals hung to his
feet in strips; the sweat, pouring down his cheeks, had made gutters as
it were in the dust on his face, and his tears, as the physician held out
his hand to him, washed out other channels.

In reply to the leech's anxious, long drawn "Dead?"  he nodded silently;
and when Philippus, clasping his hands to his temples, cried out: "Dead!
My poor old Rufinus dead!  But how, in Heaven's name, did it happen?
Speak, man, speak!"--Gibbus pointed to the old philosopher and said:
"Come out then, with  me, Master.  No third person.  .  .  ."

Philippus, however, gave him to understand that Horapollo was his second
self; and the hunch-back went on to tell him what he had seen, and how
his beloved master had met his end.  Horapollo sat listening in
astonishment, shaking his head disapprovingly, while the physician
muttered curses.  But the bearer of evil tidings was not interrupted,
and it was not till he had ended that Philippus, with bowed head and
tearful eyes, said:

"Poor, faithful old man; to think that he should die thus--he who leaves
behind him all that is best in life, while I--I.  .  .  ."  And he
groaned aloud.  The old man glanced at him with reproachful displeasure.

While the leech broke the seals of the tablets, which the abbess had
carefully closed, and began to read the contents, Horapollo asked the
gardener: "And the nuns?  Did they all escape?"

"Yes, Master! on the morning after we reached Doomiat, a trireme took
them all out to sea."

And the old man grumbled to himself:  "The working bees killed and the
Drones saved!"

Gibbus, however, contradicted him, praising the laborious and useful life
of the sisters, in whose care he himself had once been.

Meanwhile Philippus had read his friend's last letter.  Greatly disturbed
by it he turned hither and thither, paced the room with long steps, and
finally paused in front of the gardener, exclaiming: "And what next?  Who
is to tell them the news?"

"You," replied Gibbus, raising his hands in entreaty.

"I-oh, of course, I!"  growled the physician.  "Whatever is difficult,
painful, intolerable, falls on my shoulders as a matter of course!  But I
cannot--ought not--I will not do it.  Had I any part or lot in devising
this mad expedition?  You observe, Father?--What he, the simpleton,
brewed, I--I again am to drink.  Fate has settled that!"

"It is hard, it is hard, child!"  replied the old man.  "Still, it is
your duty.  Only consider--if that man, as he stands before us now, were
to appear before the women...."

But Philippus broke in: "No, no, that would not do!  And you, Gibbus--
this very day there has been an Arab again to see Joanna; and if they
were to suspect that you had been with your master--for you look
strangely.--No, man; your devotion merits a better reward.  They shall
not catch you.  I release you from your service to the widow, and we--
what do you say, Father?--we will keep him here."

"Right, very right," said Horapollo.  "The Nile must some day rise again.
Stay with us; I have long had a fancy to eat vegetables of my own
growing."

But Gibbus firmly declined the offer, saying he wished to return to his
old mistress.  When the physician again pointed out to him how great a
danger he was running into, and the old man desired to know his reasons,
the hunch-back exclaimed:

"I promised my master to stay with the women; and now, while in all the
household I am the only free man, shall I leave them unprotected to
secure my own miserable life?  Sooner would I see a scimitar at my
throat.  When my head is off the rascals are welcome to all that is
left."

The words came hollow and broken from his parched tongue, and as he spoke
the faithful fellow's face changed.  Even under the dust he turned pale,
and Philippus had to support him, for his feet refused their office.  His
long tramp through the torrid heat had exhausted his strength; but a
draught of wine soon brought him to himself again and Horapollo ordered
the slave to lead him to the kitchen and desire the cook to take the best
care of him.

As soon as the friends were alone, the elder observed:

"That worthy, foolhardy, old child who is now dead, seems to have left
you some strange request.  I could see that as you were reading."

"There--take it!"  replied  Philippus;  and again he walked up and down
the room, while Horapollo took the letter.  Both faces of the tablets
were covered with irregular, up-and-down lines of writing to the
following effect:

     "Rufinus, in view of death, to his beloved Philippus:

     "One shivering fit after another comes over me; I shall certainly
     die to-day.  I must make haste.  Writing is difficult.  If only I
     can say what is most pressing.--First: Joanna and the poor child.
     Be everything you can be to them.  Protect them as their guardian,
     Kyrios, and friend.  They have enough to live on and something still
     to spare for others.  My brother Leonax manages the property, and he
     is honest.  Joanna knows all about it.--Tell her and the poor child
     that I send them ten thousand blessings--and to Joanna endless
     thanks for all her goodness.--And to you, my friend: heed the old
     man's words.  Rid your heart of Paula.  She is not for you: you
     know, young Orion.  But as to yourself:  Those who were born in high
     places rarely suit us, who have dragged ourselves up from below to a
     better position.  Be her friend; that she deserves--but let that be
     all.  Do not live alone, a wife brings all that is best into a man's
     life; it is she who weaves sweet dreams into his dull sleep.  You
     know nothing of all this as yet; and your worthy old friend--to whom
     my greetings--has held aloof from it all his life....

     "For your private eye: it is a dying man who speaks thus.  You must
     know that my poor child, our Pul, regards you as the most perfect of
     men and esteems you above all others.  You know her and Joanna.
     Bear witness to your friend that no evil word ever passed the lips
     of either of them.  Far be it from me to advise you, who bear the
     image of another woman in your heart,--to say: marry the child, she
     is the wife for you.  But this much to you both--Father and son--I
     do advise you to live with the mother and daughter as true and
     friendly house-mates.  You will none of you repent doing so.  This
     is a dying man's word.  I can write no more.  You are the women's
     guardian, Philip, a faithful one I know.  A common aim makes men
     grow alike.  You and I, for many a year.--Take good care of them for
     me; I entreat you--good care."

The last words were separated and written all astray; the old man could
hardly make them out.  He now sat looking, as Phillipus had done before,
sorely puzzled and undecided over this strange document.

"Well?"  asked the leech at last.

"Aye-well?"  repeated the other with a shrug.  Then both again were
silent; till Horapollo rose, and taking his staff, also paced the room
while he murmured, half to himself and half to his younger friend "They
are two quiet, reasonable women.  There are not many of that sort, I
fancy.  How the little one helped me up from the low seat in the garden!"
It was a reminiscence that made him chuckle to himself; he stopped
Philippus, who was pacing at his side, by lightly patting his arm,
exclaiming with unwonted vivacity:  "A man should be ready to try
everything--the care of women even, before he steps into the grave.
And is it a fact that neither of them is a scold or a chatter-box?"

"It is indeed."

"And what 'if' or 'but' remains behind?"  asked the old man.  "Let
us be reckless for once, brother!  If the whole business were not so
diabolically serious, it would be quite laughable.  The young one for me
and the old one for you in our leisure hours, my son; better washed
linen; clothes without holes in them; no dust on our books; a pleasant
'Rejoice' every morning, or at meal-times;--only look at the fruit on
that dish!  No better than the oats they strew before horses.  At the old
man's everything was as nice as it used to be in my own home at Philae:
Supper a little work of art, a feast for the eye as well as the appetite!
Pulcheria seems to understand all that as well as my poor dead sister
did.  And then, when I want to rise, such a kind, pretty little hand to
help one up!  I have long hated this dwelling.  Lime and dust fall from
the ceiling in my bedroom, and here there are wide gaps in the flooring-
I stumbled over one yesterday--and our niggardly landlords, the
officials, say that if we want anything repaired we may do it ourselves,
that they have no money left for such things.  Now, under that worthy old
man's roof everything was in the best order."  The philosopher chuckled
aloud and rubbed his hands as he went on: "Supposing we kick over the
traces for once, Philip.  Supposing we were to carry out our friend's
dying wish?  Merciful Isis!  It would certainly be a good action, and I
have not many to boast of.  But cautiously--what do you say?  We can
always throw it up at a month's notice."

Then he grew grave again, shook his head, and said meditatively: "No, no;
such plans only disturb one's peace of mind.  A pleasant vision!  But
scarcely feasible."

"Not for the present, at any rate," replied the leech.

"So long as Paula's fate remains undecided, I beg you to let the matter
rest."

The old man muttered a curse on her; then he said with a vicious, sharp
flash in his eyes: "That patrician viper!  Every where in everything--she
spoils it all!  But wait a while!  I fancy she will soon be removed from
our path, and then...  No, even now, at the present time, I will not
allow that we should be deprived of what would embellish life, of doing a
thing which may turn the scale in my favor in the day of judgment.  The
wishes of a dying man are sacred: So our fathers held it; and they were
right.  The old man's will must be done!  Yes, yes, yes.  It is settled.
As soon as that hindrance is removed, we will keep house with the two
women.  I have said; and I mean it."

At this point the gardener came in again, and the old man called out to
him:

"Listen, man.  We shall live together after all; you shall hear more of
this later.  Stay with my people till sundown, but you must keep your own
counsel, for they are all listeners and blabs.  The physician here will
now take the melancholy tidings to the unfortunate widow, and then you
can talk it all over with her at night.  Nothing startling must take
place at the house there; and with regard to your master, even his death
must remain a secret from every one but us and his family."

The gardener knew full well how much depended on his silence; Philippus
tacitly agreed to the old man's arrangement, but for the present he
avoided discussing the matter with the women.  When, at length he set off
on his painful errand to the widow, Horapollo dismissed him saying:

"Courage, courage, my Son.--And as you pass by, just glance at our little
garden;--we grieved to see the fine old palm-tree perish; but now a young
and vigorous shoot is growing from the root."

"It has been drooping since yesterday and will die away," replied
Philippus shrugging his shoulders.

But the old man exclaimed: "Water it, Gibbus! the palm-tree must be
watered at once."

"Aye, you have water at hand for that!"  retorted the leech, but he added
bitterly as he reached the stairs, "If it were so in all cases!"

"Patience and good purpose will always win," murmured the old man; and
when he was alone he growled on angrily: "Only be rid of that dry old
palm-tree--his past life in all its relations to that patrician hussy
Away with it, into the fire!--But how am I to get her?  How can I manage
it?"

He threw himself back in his arm-chair, rubbing his forehead with the
tips of his fingers.  He had come to no result when the negro requested
an audience for some visitors.  These were the heads of the senate of
Memphis, who had come as a deputation to ask counsel of the old sage.
He, if any one, would find some means of averting or, at any rate,
mitigating the fearful calamity impending over the town and country, and
against which prayer, sacrifice, processions, and pilgrimages had proved
abortive.  They were quite resolved to leave no means untried, not even
if heathen magic should be the last resource.



CHAPTER X.

All Katharina's sympathy with Heliodora had died finally in the course of
the past, moonless night.  She had secretly accompanied her, with her
maid and an old deaf and dumb stable-slave, to a soothsayer--for there
still were many in Memphis, as well as magicians and alchemists; and this
woman had told the young widow that her line of life led to the greatest
happiness, and that even the wildest wishes of her heart would find
fulfilment.  What those wishes were Katharina knew only too well; the
probability of their accomplishment had roused her fierce jealousy and
made her hate Heliodora.

Heliodora had gone to consult the sorceress in a simple but rich dress.
Her peplos was fastened on the shoulder, not by an ordinary gold pin, but
by a button which betrayed her taste for fine jewels, as it consisted of
a sapphire of remarkable size; this had at once caught the eye of the
witch, showing her that she had to deal with a woman of rank and wealth.
She had taken Katharina, who had come very plainly dressed, for her
companion or poor friend, so she had promised her no more than the
removal of certain hindrances, and a happy life at last, with a husband
no longer young and a large family of children.

The woman's business was evidently a paying one; the interior of her
house was conspicuously superior to the wretched hovels which surrounded
it, in the poorest and most squalid part of the town.  Outside, indeed,
it differed little from its neighbors; in fact; it was intentionally
neglected, to mislead the authorities, for witchcraft and the practice of
magic arts were under the penalty of death.  But the fittings of the
roofless centre-chamber in which she was wont to perform her incantations
and divinations argued no small outlay.  On the walls were hangings with
occult figures; the pillars were painted with weird and grewsome
pictures; crucibles and cauldrons of various sizes were simmering over
braziers on little altars; on the shelves and tables stood cups, phials,
and vases, a wheel on which a wryneck hopped up and down, wax images of
men and women--some with needles through their hearts, a cage full of
bats, and glass jars containing spiders, frogs, leeches, beetles,
scorpions, centipedes and other foul creatures; and lengthways down the
room was stretched a short rope walk, used in a Thracian form of magic.
Perfumes and pungent vapors filled the air, and from behind a curtain
which hid the performers came a monotonous music of children's voices,
bells, and dull drumming.

Medea, so the wise woman was called, though scarcely past five and forty,
harmonized in appearance with this strange habitation, full as it was of
objects calculated to rouse repulsion, dread, and amazement.  Her face
was pale, and her extraordinary height was increased by a mass of coal-
black hair, curled high over a comb at the very top of her head.

At the end of the first visit paid her by the two young women, who had
taken her by surprise, so that several things were lacking which on the
second occasion proved to be very effective in the exercise of her art,
she had made Heliodora promise to return in three days' time.  The young
widow had kept her word, and had made her appearance punctually with
Katharina.

To be in Egypt, the land of sorcery and the magic arts, without putting
them to the test, was impossible.  Even Martina allowed this, though she
did not care for such things for herself.  She was content with her lot;
and if any change for the worse were in prospect she would rather not be
tormented beforehand by a wise prophet; nor was it better to be deluded
by a foolish one.  Happiness as of Heaven itself she no longer craved; it
would only have disturbed her peace.  But she was the last person to
think ill of the young, whose life still lay before them, if they longed
to look into futurity.

The fair widow and her companion crossed the sorceress' threshold in some
trepidation, and Katharina was the more agitated of the two; for this
afternoon she had seen Philippus leave the house of Rufinus, and not long
after some Arab officials had called there.  Paula had come into the
garden shortly before sundown, her eyes red with weeping; and when, soon
after, Pulcheria and her mother had joined her there, Paula had thrown
herself on Joanna's neck, sobbing so bitterly that the mother and
daughter--"whose tears were near her eyes"--had both followed her
example.  Something serious had occurred; but when she had gone to the
house to pick up further information, old Betta, who was particularly
snappish with her, had refused her admission quite rudely.

Then, on their way hither, she and Heliodora had had a painful adventure;
the chariot, lent by Neforis to convey them as far as the edge of the
necropolis, was stopped on the way by a troop of Arab horse, and they
were subjected to a catechism by the leader.

So they entered the house of "Medea of the curls," as the common people
called the witch, with uneasy and throbbing hearts; they were received,
however, with such servile politeness that they soon recovered
themselves, and even the timid Heliodora began to breathe freely again.
The sorceress knew this time who Katharina was, and paid more respectful
attention to the daughter of the wealthy widow.

The young crescent moon had risen, a circumstance which Medea declared
enabled her to see more clearly into the future than she could do at the
time of the Luna-negers as she called the moonless night.  Her inward
vision had been held in typhornian darkness at the time of their first
visit, by the influence of some hostile power.  She had felt this as soon
as they had quitted her, but to-day she saw clearer.  Her mind's eye was
as clear as a silver mirror, she had purified it by three days' fasting
and not a mote could escape her sight.--"Help, ye children of Horapollo!
Help, Hapi and Ye three holy ones!"

"Oh, my beauties, my beauties!"  she went on enthusiastically.  "Hundreds
of great dames have proved my art, but such splendid fortunes I never
before saw crowding round any two heads as round yours.  Do you hear how
the cauldrons of fortune are seething?  The very lids lift!  Amazing,
amazing."

She stretched out her hand towards the vessels as though conjuring them
and said solemnly: "Abundance of happiness; brimming over, brimming over!
Bursting storehouses!  Zefa-oo Metramao.  Return, return, to the right
levels, the right heights, the right depth, the right measure!  Your Elle
Mei-Measurer, Leveller, require them, Techuti, require them, double
Ibis!"

She made them both sit down on elegant seats in front of the boiling
pots, tied the "thread of Anubis" round the ring-finger of each, asked in
a low whisper between muttered words of incantation for a hair of each,
and after placing the hairs both in one cauldron she cried out with wild
vehemence, as though the weal or woe of her two visitors were involved in
the smallest omission:

"Press the finger with the thread of Anubis on your heart; fix your eyes
on the cauldron and the steam which rises to the spirits above, the
spirits of light, the great One on high!"

The two women obeyed the sorceress' directions with beating hearts, while
she began spinning round on her toes with dizzy rapidity; her curls flew
out, and the magic wand in her extended hand described a large and
beautiful curve.  Suddenly, and as if stricken by terror, she stopped her
whirl, and at the same instant the lamps went out and the only light was
from the stars and the twinkling coals under the cauldrons.  The low
music died away, and a fresh strong perfume welled out from behind the
curtain.

Medea fell on her knees, lifted up her hands to Heaven, threw her head so
far back that her whole face was turned up to the sky and her eyes gazed
straight up at the stars-an attitude only possible to so supple a spine.
In this torturing attitude she sang one invocation after another, to the
zenith of the blue vault over their heads, in a clear voice of fervent
appeal.  Her body was thrown forward, her mass of hair no longer stood up
but was turned towards the two young women, who every moment expected
that the supplicant would be suffocated by the blood mounting to her
head, and fall backwards; but she sang and sang, while her white teeth
glittered in the starlight that fell straight upon her face.  Presently,
in the midst of the torrent of demoniacal names and magic formulas that
she sang and warbled out, a piteous and terrifying sound came from behind
the curtain as of two persons gasping, sighing, and moaning: one voice
seemed to be that of a man oppressed by great anguish; the other was the
half-suffocated wailing of a suffering child.  This soon became louder,
and at length a voice said in Egyptian: "Water, a drink of water."

The woman started to her feet, exclaiming: "It is the cry of the poor and
oppressed who have been robbed to enrich those who have too much already;
the lament of those whom Fate has plundered to heap you with wealth
enough for hundreds."  As she spoke these words, in Greek and with much
unction, she turned to the curtain and added solemnly, but in Egyptian:
"Give drink to the thirsty; the happy ones will spare him a drop from
their overflow.  Give the white drink to the wailing child-spirit, that
he may be soothed and quenched.--Play, music, and drown the lamentations
of the spirits in sorrow."

Then, turning to Heliodora's kettle she said sternly, as if in obedience
to some higher power:

"Seven gold pieces to complete the work,"--and while the young widow drew
out her purse the sorceress lighted the lamps, singing as she did so and
as she dropped the coin into the boiling fluid: "Pure, bright gold!
Sunlight buried in a mine!  Holy Seven.  Shashef, Shashef!  Holy Seven,
marry and mingle--melt together!"

When this was done she poured out of the cauldron a steaming fluid as
black as ink, into a shallow saucer, called Heliodora to her side, and
told her what she could see in the mirror of its surface.

It was all fair, and gave none but delightful replies to the widow's
questioning.  And all the sorceress said tended to confirm the young
woman's confidence in her magic art; she described Orion as exactly as
though she saw him indeed in the surface of the ink, and said he was
travelling with an older man.  And lo!  he was returning already; in the
bright mirror she could see Heliodora clasped in her lover's arms; and
now--it was like a picture: A stranger--not the bishop of Memphis--laid
her hand in his and blessed their union before the altar in a vast and
magnificent cathedral.

Katharina, who had been chilled with apprehensions and a thrill of awe,
as she listened to Medea's song, listened to every word with anxious
attention; what Medea said--how she described Orion--that was more
wonderful than anything else, beyond all she had believed possible.  And
the cathedral in which the lovers were to be united was the church of St.
Sophia at Constantinople, of which she had heard so much.

A tight grip seemed to clutch her heart; still, eagerly as she listened
to Medea's words, her sharp ears heard the doleful gasping and whimpering
behind the hanging; and this distressed and dismayed her; her breath came
short, and a deep, torturing sense of misfortune possessed her wholly.
The wailing child-spirit within, a portion of whose joys Medea said had
been allotted to her--nay, she had not robbed him, certainly not--for who
could be more wretched than she?  It was only that beautiful, languishing
young creature who was so lavishly endowed by Fortune with gifts enough
and to spare for others without number.  Oh! if she could but have
snatched them from her one after another, from the splendid ruby she was
wearing to-day, to Orion's love!

She was pale and tremulous as she rose at the call of the sorceress,
after she also had offered seven gold pieces.  She would gladly have
purchased annihilating curses to destroy her happier rival.

The black liquid in the saucer began to stir, and a sharply smelling
vapor rose from it; the witch blew this aside, and as soon as the murky
fluid was a little cool, and the surface was smooth and mirror-like, she
asked Katharina what she most desired to know.  But the answer was
checked on her lips; a fearful thundering and roaring suddenly made the
house shake; Medea dropped the saucer with a piercing shriek, the
contents splashed up, and warm, sticky drops fell on the girl's arms and
dress.  She was quite overcome with the startling horror, and Heliodora,
who could herself scarcely stand, had to support her, for she tottered
and would have fallen.

The sorceress had vanished; a half-grown lad, a young man, and a very
tall Egyptian girl in scanty attire were rushing about the room.  They
flew hither and thither, throwing all the vessels they could lay hands on
into an opening in the floor from which they had lifted a trap-door;
pouring water on the braziers and extinguishing the lights, while they
drove the two strangers into a corner of the hall, rating and abusing
them.  Then the lads clambered like cats up to the opening in the roof,
and sprang off and away.

A shrill whistle rang through the house, and in moment Medea burst into
the room again, clutched the two trembling women by the shoulders, and
exclaimed: "For Christ's sake, be merciful!  My life is at stake Sorcery
is punishable by death.  I have done my best for you.  You came here--
that is what you must say--out of charity to nurse the sick."  She pushed
them both behind the hanging whence they still heard feeble groans, into
a low, stuffy room, and the over-grown girl slipped in behind them.

Here, on miserable couches, lay an old man shivering, and showing dark
spots on his bare breast and face: and a child of five, whose crimson
cheeks were burning with fever.

Heliodora felt as if she must suffocate in the plague stricken, heavy
atmosphere, and Katharina clung to her helplessly; but the soothsayer
pulled her away, saying: "Each to one bed: you to the child, and you--
the old man."

Involuntarily they obeyed the woman who was panting with fright.  The
water-wagtail, who never in her life thought of a sick person, turned
very sick and looked away from the sufferer; but the your widow, who had
spent many and many a night by the death-bed of a man she had loved, and
who, tender-hearted, had often tended her sick slaves with her own hand,
looked compassionately into the pretty, pain-stricken face of the child,
and wiped the dews from his clammy brow.

Katharina shuddered; but her attention was presently attracted to
something fresh; from the other side of the house came a clatter of
weapons, the door was pushed open, and the physician Philippus walked
into the room.  He desired the night-watch, who were with him, to wait
outside.  He had come by the command of the police authorities, to whose
ears information had been brought that there were persons sick of the
plague in the house of Medea, and that she, nevertheless, continued to
receive visitors.  It had long been decided that she must be taken in the
act of sorcery, and warning had that day been given that she expected
illustrious company in the evening.  The watch were to find her red-
handed, so to speak; the leech was to prove whether her house was indeed
plague-stricken; and in either case the senate wished to have the
sorceress safe in prison and at their mercy, though even Philippus had
not been taken into their confidence.

The visitors he had come upon were the last he had expected to find here.
He looked at them with a disapproving shake of the head, interrupted the
woman's voluble asseverations that these noble ladies had come, out of
Christian charity, to comfort and help the sick, with a rough
exclamation:  "A pack of lies!" and at once led the coerced sick nurses
out of the house.  He then represented to them the fearful risk to which
their folly had exposed them, and insisted very positively on their
returning home and, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, taking a
bath and putting on fresh garments.

With trembling knees they found their way back to the chariot; but even
before it could start Heliodora had broken down in tears, while
Katharina, throwing herself back on the cushions, thought, as she glanced
at her weeping companion:  "This is the beginning of the wonderful
happiness she was promised!  It is to be hoped it may continue!"

It seemed indeed as though Katharina's guardian spirit had overheard this
amiable wish; for, as the chariot drove past the guard-house into the
court-yard of the governor's house, it was stopped by armed men with
brown, warlike faces, and they had to wait some minutes till an Arab
officer appeared to enquire who they were, and what they wanted.  This
they explained in fear and trembling, and they then learnt that the Arab
government had that very evening taken possession of the residence.
Orion was accused of serious crimes, and his guests were to depart on the
following day.

Katharina, who was known to the interpreter, was allowed to go with
Heliodora to the senator's wife; she might also use the chariot to return
home in, and if she pleased, take the Byzantines with her, for the palace
would be in the hands of the soldiery for the next few days.

The two young women held council.  Katharina pressed her friend to come
at once to her mother's house, for she felt certain that they were
plague-stricken, and how could they procure a bath in a house full of
soldiers?  Heliodora could not and must not remain with Martina in this
condition, and the senator's wife could follow her next day.  Her mother,
she added, would be delighted to welcome so dear a guest.

The widow was passive, and when Martina had gladly consented to accept
the invitation of her "delivering angel," the chariot carried them to
Susannah's house.  The widow had long been in bed, firmly convinced that
her daughter was asleep and dreaming in her own pretty room.

Katharina would not have her disturbed, and the bath-room was so far from
Susannah's apartment that she slept on quietly while Katharina and her
guest purified themselves.



CHAPTER XI.

The inhabitants of the governor's residence passed a fearful night.
Martina asked herself what sin she had committed that she, of all people,
should be picked out to witness such a disaster.

And where were her schemes of marriage now?  Any movement in such heat
was indeed scarcely endurable; but she would have moved from one part of
the house to another a dozen times, and allowed herself to be tossed
hither and thither like a ball, if it could have enabled her to save her
dear "great Sesostris" from such hideous peril.  And at the bottom of all
this was, no doubt, this wild, senseless business of the nuns.

And these Arabs!  They simply helped themselves to whatever they fancied,
and were, of course, in a position to strip the son of the great Mukaukas
of all he possessed and reduce him to beggary.  A pretty business this!

Heliodora, to be sure, had enough for both, and she and her husband
would not forget them in their will; but there was more than this in
the balance now: it was a matter of life and death.

A cold shudder ran through her at the thought; and her fears were only
too well founded: the black Arab who had come to parley with her, and had
finally allowed her to remain under this roof till next day, had told her
as much through the interpreter.  A fearful, horrible, nameless
catastrophe!  And that she should be in the midst of it and have
to see it all!

Then her husband, her poor Justinus!  How hard this would fall on him!
She could not cease weeping; and before she fell asleep she prayed
fervently indeed, to the saints and the dear Mother of God, that they
would bring all to a happy issue.  She closed her eyes on the thought:
"What a misfortune!" and she woke to it again early in the morning.

She, however, had known nothing of the worst horrors of that fatal night.

A troop of Arab soldiers had crossed the Nile at nightfall, some on foot
or on horseback and some in boats, led by Obada the Vekeel, and had
invested the governor's residence.  When they had fully assured
themselves that Orion was indeed absent they took Nilus prisoner.
It was then Obada's business to inform the Mukaukas' widow of what had
happened, and to tell her that she must quit the house next day.  This
must be done, because he had views of his own as to what was to become of
the venerable house of the oldest family in the country.

Neforis was still up, and when the interpreter was announced as Obada's
forerunner, she was in the fountain-room.  He found her a good deal
excited; for, although she was incapable of any consecutive train of
thought and, when her mind was required to exert itself, her ideas only
came like lightning-flashes through her brain, she had observed that
something unusual was going on.  Sebek and her maid had evaded her
enquiries, and would say no more than that Amru's representative had come
to speak with the young master.  It seemed to be something important,
perhaps some false accusation.

The interpreter now explained that Orion himself was accused of having
planned and aided an enterprise which had cost the lives of twelve Arab
soldiers; and, as she knew, any injury inflicted even on a single Moslem
by an Egyptian was punished by death and the confiscation of his goods.
Besides this, her son was accused of a robbery.

At the close of this communication, to which Neforis listened with a
vacant stare, horrified and at last almost crushed, the interpreter
begged that she would grant the Vekeel an audience.

"Not just yet--give me a few minutes," said the widow, bringing out the
words with difficulty: first she must have recourse to her secret
specific.  When she had done so, she expressed her readiness to see
Obada.  Her son's swarthy foe was anxious to appear a mild and
magnanimous man in her eyes, so it was with flattering servility and many
smirking grins that he communicated to her the necessity for her quitting
the house in which she had passed the longest and happiest half of her
life, and no later than next day.

To his announcement that her private fortune would remain untouched, and
that she would be at liberty to reside in Memphis or to go to her own
house in Alexandria, she indifferently replied that "she should see."

She then enquired whether the Arabs had yet succeeded in capturing her
son.

"Not actually," replied the Vekeel.  "But we know where he is hiding,
and by to-morrow or the next day we shall lay hands on the unhappy young
man."

But, as he spoke, the widow detected a malicious gleam in his eyes to
which, so far, he had tried to give a sympathetic expression, and she
went on with a slight shake of the bead: "Then it is a case of life and
death?"

"Compose yourself, noble lady," was the reply.  "Of death alone."

Neforis looked up to heaven and for some minutes did not speak; then she
asked:

"And who has accused him of robbery?"  "The head of his own Church....."

"Benjamin?" she murmured with a peculiar smile.  Only yesterday she had
made her will in favor of the patriarch and the Church.  "If Benjamin
could see that," said she to herself, "he would change his views of you
and your people, and have prayers constantly said for us."

As she spoke no more the Vekeel sat looking at her inquisitively and
somewhat at a loss, till at length she rose, and with no little dignity
dismissed him, remarking that now their business was at an end and she
had nothing further to say to him.

This closed the interview; and as the Vekeel quitted the fountain-room he
muttered to himself: "What a woman!  Either she is possessed and her
brain is crazed, or she is of a rarely heroic pattern."

Neforis was supported to her own room; when she was in bed she desired
her maid to bring a small box out of her chest and place it on the little
table containing medicines by the bead of the couch.

As soon as she was alone she took out two letters which George had
written to her before their marriage, and a poem which Orion had once
addressed to her; she tried to read them, but the words danced before her
eyes, and she was forced to lay them aside.  She took up a little packet
containing hair cut from the heads of her sons after death, and a lock of
her husband's.  She gazed on these dear memorials with rapt tenderness,
and now the poppy juice began to take effect: the images of those
departed ones rose clear in her mind, and she was as near to them as
though they were standing in living actuality by her side.

Still holding the curls in her hand, she looked up into vacancy, trying
to apprehend clearly what had occurred within the last few hours and what
lay before her: She must leave this room, this ample couch, this house--
all, in short, that was bound up with the dearest memories of those she
had loved.  She was to be forced to this--but did it beseem her to submit
to this Negro, this stranger in the house where she was mistress?  She
shook her head with a scornful smile; then opening a glass phial, which
was still half-full of opium pillules, she placed a few on her tongue and
again gazed sky-wards.--Another face now looked down on her; she saw the
husband from whom not even death could divide her, and at his feet their
two murdered sons.  Presently Orion seemed to rise out of the clouds, as
a diver comes up from the water, and make for the shore of the island on
which George and the other two seemed to be standing.  His father opened
his arms to receive him and clasped him to his heart, while she herself
--or was it only her wraith--went to the others, who hurried forward to
greet her tenderly; and then her husband, too, met her, and she found
rest on his bosom.

For hours, and long before the incursion of the Arabs, she had been
feeling half stunned and her mind clouded; but now a delicious,
slumberous lethargy came over her, to which her whole being urged her to
yield.  But every time her eyes closed, the thought of the morrow shot
through her brain, and finally, with a great effort, she sat up, took
some water--which was always close at hand--shook into it the remaining
pillules in the bottle, and drank it off to the very last drop.

Her hand was steady; the happy smile on her lips, and the eager
expression of her eyes, might have led a spectator to believe that she
was thirsty and had mixed herself a refreshing draught.  She had no look
of a desperate creature laying violent hands on her own life; she felt no
hesitancy, no fear of death, no burthen of the guilt she was incurring--
nothing but ecstatic weariness and hope; blissful hope of a life without
end, united to those she loved.

Hardly had she swallowed the deadly draught when she shivered with a
sudden chill.  Raising herself a little she called her maid, who was
sitting up in the adjoining room; and as the woman looked alarmed at her
mistress's fixed stare, she stammered out: "A priest--quick--I am dying."

The woman flew off to the viridarium to call Sebek, who was standing in
front of the tablinum with the Vekeel; she told him what had happened,
and the Negro gave him leave to obey his dying mistress, escorting him as
far as the gate.  Just outside, the steward met a deacon who had been
giving the blessing of the Church to a poor creature dying of the
pestilence, and in a few minutes they were standing by the widow's bed.

The locks of her sons' hair lay by her side; her hands were folded over a
crucifix; but her eyes, which had been fixed on the features of the
Saviour, had wandered from it and again gazed up to Heaven.

The priest spoke her name, but she mistook him for her son and murmured
in loving accents:

"Orion, poor, poor child!  And you, Mary, my darling, my sweet little
pet!  Your father--yes, dear boy, only come with me.--Your father is kind
again and forgives you.  All those I loved are together now, and no one--
Who can part us?  Husband--George, listen.  .  ."

The priest performed his office, but she paid no heed, still staring
upwards; her smiling lips continued to move, but no articulate sound came
from them.  At last they were still, her eyelids fell, her hands dropped
the crucifix, a slight shiver ran through her limbs, which then relaxed,
and she opened her mouth as though to draw a deeper breath.  But it
closed no more, and when the faithful steward pressed her lips together
her face was rigid and her heart had ceased to beat.

The honest man sobbed aloud; when he carried the melancholy news to the
Vekeel, Obada growled out a curse, and said to a subaltern officer who
was super-intending the loading of his camels with the treasures from the
tablinum:

"I meant to have treated that cursed old woman with conspicuous
generosity, and now she has played me this trick; and in Medina they
will lay her death at my door, unless. . ."

But here he broke off; and as he once more watched the loading of the
camels, he only thought to himself: "In playing for such high stake's, a
few gold pieces more or less do not count.  A few more heads must fall
yet--the handsome Egyptian first and foremost.--If the conspirators at
Medina only play their part!  The fall of Omar means that of Amru, and
that will set everything right."



CHAPTER XII.

Katharina slept little and rose very early, as was her habit, while
Heliodora was glad to sleep away the morning hours.  In this scorching
season they were, to be sure, the pleasantest of the twenty-four, and the
water-wagtail usually found them so; but to-day, though a splendid Indian
flower had bloomed for the first time, and the head gardener pointed it
out to her with just pride, she could not enjoy it and be glad.  It might
perish for aught she cared, and the whole world with it!

There was no one stirring yet in the next garden, but the tall leech
Philippus might be seen coming along the road to pay a visit to the
women.

A few swift steps carried her to the gate, whence she called him.  She
must entreat him to say nothing of her last night's expedition; but
before she had time to prefer her request he had paused to tell her that
the widow of the Mukaukas, overcome by alarm and horror, had followed her
husband to the next world.

There had been a time when Katharina had been devoted to Neforis,
regarding her as a second mother; when the governor's residence had
seemed to her the epitome of all that was great, venerable, and
illustrious; and when she had been proud and happy to be allowed to run
in and out, and to be loved like a child of the family.  The tears that
started to her eyes were sincere, and it was a relief to her, too, to lay
aside the gay and defiantly happy mien which she wore as a mask, while
all in her soul was dark, wild, and desperate.

The physician understood her grief; he readily promised not to betray her
to any one, and did not blame her, though he again pointed out the danger
she had incurred and earnestly insisted that every article of clothing,
which she or Heliodora had worn, must be destroyed.  The subtle germ of
the malady, he said, clung to everything; every fragment of stuff which
had been touched by the plague-stricken was especially fitted to carry
the infection and disseminate the disease.  She listened to him in deep
alarm, but she could satisfy him on this point; everything she or her
companion had worn had been burnt in the bath-room furnace.

The physician went on; and she, heedless of the growing heat, wandered
restlessly about the grounds.  Her heart beat with short, quick, painful
jerks; an invisible burthen weighed upon her and prevented her breathing
freely.  A host of torturing thoughts haunted her unbidden; they were not
to be exorcised, and added to her misery: Neforis dead; the residence in
the hands of the Arabs; Orion bereft of his possessions and held guilty
of a capital crime.

And the peaceful house beyond the hedge--what trouble was hanging over
its white-haired master and his guileless wife and daughter?  A storm was
gathering, she could see it approaching--and beyond it, like another
murky, death-dealing thunder-cloud, was the pestilence, the fearful
pestilence.

And it was she, a fragile, feeble girl--a volatile water-wagtail--who had
brought all these terrors down on them, who had opened the sluice-gates
through which ruin was now beginning to pour in on all around her.
She could see the flood surging, swelling--saw it lapping round her own
house, her own feet; drops of sweat bedewed her forehead and hands from
terror at the mere thought.  And yet, and yet!--If she had really had the
power to bind calamity in the clouds, to turn the tide back into its
channel, she would not have done so!  The uttermost that she longed for,
as the fruit of the seed she had sown and which she longed to see ripen,
had not yet come to pass--and to see that she would endure anything, even
death and parting from this deceitful, burning, unlovely world.

Death awaited Orion; and before it overtook him he should know who had
sharpened the sword.  Perhaps he might escape with his life; but the Arab
would not disgorge what he once had seized, and if that young and
splendid Croesus should come out of prison alive, but a beggar, then--
then...  And as for Paula!  As for Heliodora!  For once her little hand
had wrenched the thunderbolts from Zeus' eagle, and she would find one
for them!

The sense of her terrible power, to which more than one victim had
already fallen, intoxicated her.  She would drive Orion--Orion who had
betrayed her--into utter ruin and misery; she would see him a beggar at
her feet!--And this it was that gave her courage to do her worst; this,
and this alone.  What she would do then, she herself knew not; that lay
as yet in the womb of the Future.  She might take a fancy to do something
kind, compassionate, and tender.

By the time she went into the house again her fears and depression had
vanished; revived energy possessed her soul, and the little eavesdropper
and tale-bearer had become in this short hour a purposeful and terrible
woman, ready for any crime.

"Poor little lamb!"  thought Philippus, as he went into Rufinus' garden.
"That miserable man may have brought pangs enough to her little heart!"

His old friend's garden-plot was deserted.  Under the sycamore, however,
he perceived the figures of a very tall young man and a pretty woman,
delicate, fair-haired, and rather pale.  The big young fellow was holding
a skein of wool on his huge, outstretched hands; the girl was winding it
on to a ball.  These were Rustem the Masdakite and Mandane, both now
recovered from their injuries; the girl, indeed, had been restored to the
new life of a calm and understanding mind.  Philippus had watched over
this wonderful resuscitation with intense interest and care.  He ascribed
it, in the first instance, to the great loss of blood from the wound in
her head; and secondly, to the fresh air and perfect nursing she had had.
All that was now needful was to protect her against agitation and violent
emotions.  In the Masdakite she had found a friend and a submissive
adorer; and Philippus could rejoice as he looked at the couple, for his
skill had indeed brought him nothing but credit.

His greeting to them was cheery and hearty, and in answer to his enquiry:
"How are you getting on?"  Rustem replied, "As lively as a fish in
water," adding, as he pointed to Mandane, "and I can say the same for my
fellow-countrywoman."

"You are agreed then?"  said the leech, and she nodded eager assent.

At this Philippus shook his finger at the man, exclaiming: "Do not get
too tightly entangled here, my friend.  Who knows how soon Haschim may
call you away."

Then, turning his back on the convalescents, he murmured to himself:
"Here again is something to cheer us in the midst of all this trouble-
these two, and little Mary."

Rufinus, before starting on his journey, had sent back all the crippled
children he had had in his care to their various parents; thus the
anteroom was empty.

The women apparently were at breakfast in the dining-room.  No, he was
mistaken; it was yet too early, and Pulcheria was still busy laying the
table.  She did not notice him as he went in, for she was busy arranging
grapes, figs, pomegranates and sycamore-figs, a fruit resembling
mulberries in flavor which grow in clusters from the trunk of the tree-
between leaves, which the drought and heat of the past weeks had turned
almost yellow.  The tempting heap was fast rising in an elegant many-hued
hemisphere; but her thoughts were not in her occupation, for tears were
coursing each other down her cheeks.

"Those tears are for her father," thought the leech as he watched her
from the threshold.  "Poor child!"--How often he had heard his old friend
call her so!

And till now he had never thought of her but as a child; but to-day he
must look at her with different eyes--her own father had enjoined it.
And in fact he gazed at her as though he beheld a miracle.

What had come over little Pulcheria?--How was it that he had never
noticed it before?--It was a well-grown maiden that he saw, moving round,
snowwhite arms; and he could have sworn that she had only thin, childish
arms, for she had thrown them round his neck many a time when she had
ridden up and down the garden on his back, calling him her fine horse.

How long ago was that?  Ten years!  She was now seventeen!

And how slender, and delicate, and white her hands were--those hands for
which her mother had often scolded her when, after building castles of
sand, she had sat down to table unwashed.

Now she was laying the grapes round the pomegranates, and he remembered
how Horapollo, only yesterday, had praised her dainty skill.

The windows were well screened, but a few sunbeams forced their way into
the room and fell on her red-gold hair.  Even the fair Boeotians, whom he
had admired in his student-days at Athens, had no such glorious crown of
hair.  That she had a sweet and pretty face he had always known; but now,
as she raised her eyes and first observed him, meeting his gaze with
maidenly embarrassment and sweet surprise, and yet with perfect welcome,
he felt himself color and he had to pause a moment to collect himself
before he could respond with something more than an ordinary greeting to
hers.  The dialogue that flashed through his mind in that instant began
with sentences full of meaning.  But all he said was:

"Yes, here I am," which really did not deserve the hearty reply:

"Thank God for that!" nor the bewitching embarrassment of the explanation
that ensued: "on my mother's account."

Again he blushed; he, the man who had long since forgotten his youthful
shyness.  He asked after Dame Joanna, and how she was bearing her
trouble, and then he said gravely: "I was the bearer of bad news
yesterday, and to-day again I have come like a bird of ill-omen."

"You?"  she said with a smile, and the simple word conveyed so sweet a
doubt of his capacity for bringing evil that he could not help saying to
himself that his friend, in leaving this child, this girl, to his care,
had bequeathed to him the best gift that one mortal can devise to
another: a dear, trustful, innocent daughter--or no, a younger sister--as
pure, as engaging, and as lovable as only the child of such parents could
be.

While he stood telling her of what had happened at the governor's house,
he noted how deeply, for Paula's and Mary's sake, she took to heart the
widow's death, though Neforis had been nothing to her; and he decided
that he would at once make Pulcheria's mother acquainted with her dead
husband's wishes.

All this did not supplant his old passion for Paula; far from it--that
tortured him still as deeply and hotly as ever.  But at the same time he
was conscious of its evil influence; he knew that by cherishing it he was
doing himself harm--nay a real injury since it was not returned.  He knew
that within reach of Paula, and condemned to live with her, he could
never recover his peace, but must suffer constant pangs.  It was only
away from her, and yet under the same roof with Joanna and her daughter,
that he could ever hope to be a contented and happy man; but he dared not
put this thought into words.

Pulcheria detected that he had something in reserve, and feared lest he
should know of some new impending woe; however, on this head he could
reassure her, telling her that, on the contrary, he had something in his
mind which, so far at least as he was concerned, was a source of
pleasure.  Her grieved and anxious spirit could indeed hardly believe
him; and he begged her not to lose all hope in better days, asking her
if she had true and entire trust in him.

She warmly replied that he must surely feel that she did; and now, as the
others came into the room, she nodded to her mother, whom she had already
seen quite early, and offering him her hand shook his heartily.  This had
been a restful interval; but the sight of Paula, and the news he had to
give her, threw him back into his old depressed and miserable mood.

Little Mary, whose cheeks had recovered their roses and who looked quite
well again, threw her arms round Paula's neck as she heard the evil
tidings; but Paula herself was calmer than he had expected.  She turned
very pale at the first shock, but soon she could listen to him with
composure, and presently quite recovered her usual demeanor.  Philippus,
as he watched her, had to control himself sternly, and as soon as
possible he took his leave.

It was as though he had been fated once more to see with agonizing
clearness what he had lost in her; she walked through life as though
borne up by lofty feeling, and a thoughtful radiance lent her noble
features a bewitching charm which grieved while it enchanted him.

Orion a prisoner, and all his possessions confiscated!  The thought had
horrified her for a little while; but then it had come to her that this
was just as it should be--that what had at first looked like a dreadful
disaster had been sent to enable her love to cast off its husks, to
appear in all its loftiness and purity, and to give it, by the help of
the All-merciful, its true consecration.

She did not fear for his life, for he had told her and written to her
that Amru had been paternal in his kindness; and all that had occurred
was, she was sure, the work of the Vekeel, of whose odious and cruel
character he had given her a horrible picture that day when Rufinus had
gone to warn the abbess.

When Philippus had left his friends, he sighed deeply.  How different he
had found these women from what he had expected.  Yes, his old friend
knew men well!

From trifling details he had succeeded in forming a more accurate idea of
Pulcheria than the leech himself had gained in years of intimacy.
Horapollo had foreseen, too, that the danger which threatened the
Mukaukas' son would fan Paula's passions like a fresh breeze; and Joanna,
frail, ailing Joanna!  she had behaved heroically under the loss of the
companion with whom she had lived for so many years in faithful love.
He could not help comparing her with the wretched Neforis; what was it
that enabled one to bear the equal loss with so much more dignity than
the other?  Nothing but the presence of the tender-hearted Pulcheria,
who shared her sorrow with such beautiful resignation, such ready and
complete sympathy.  This the governor's widow had wholly lacked; and how
happy were they who could call such a heart their own!  He walked through
the garden with his head bent, and looking neither to the right hand nor
the left.

The Masdakite, who was still sitting with Mandane under the sycamore, as
indifferent to the torrid heat as she was, looked after him, and said
with a sigh as he pointed to him:

"There he goes.  This is the first time he ever said a rude word to you
or to me: or did you not understand?"

"Oh yes," said she in a low voice, looking down at her needlework.

They talked in Persian, for she had not forgotten the language which her
mother had spoken till her dying day.

Life is sometimes as strange as a fairy-tale; and the accident was indeed
wonderful which had brought these two beings, of all others, at the same
time to the sick room.  His distant home was also hers, and he even knew
her uncle--her father's brother--and her father's sad history.

When the Greek army had taken possession of the province where they had
lived, the men had fled into the woods with their flocks and herds, while
the women and children took refuge in the fortress which defended the
main road.  This had not long held out against the Byzantines, and the
women, among them Mandane with her mother, had been handed over to the
soldiers as precious booty.  Her father had then joined the troops to
rescue the women, but he and his comrades had only lost their lives in
the attempt.  To this day the valiant man's end was a tale told in his
native place, and his property and valuable rose gardens now belonged to
his younger brother.  So the two convalescents had plenty to talk about.

It was curious to note how clearly the memories of her childhood were
stamped on Mandane's mind.

She had laid her wounded head on the pillow of sickness with a darkened
brain, and the new pain had lifted the veil from her mind as a storm
clears the oppressive atmosphere of a sultry summer's day.  She loved to
linger now among the scenes of her childhood--the time when she had a
mother.--Or she would talk of the present; all between was like a night-
sky black, and only lighted up by an awful comet and shining stars.  That
comet was Orion.  All she had enjoyed with him and suffered through him
she consigned to the period of her craziness; she had taught herself to
regard it all as part of the madness to which she had been a victim.  Her
nature was not capable of cherishing hatred and she could feel no
animosity towards the Mukaukas' son.  She thought of him as of one who,
without evil intent, had done her great wrong; one whom she might not
even remember without running into peril.

"Then you mean to say," the Masdakite began once more, "that you would
really miss me if Haschim sent for me?"

"Yes indeed, Rustem; I should be very sorry."

"Oh!"  said the other, passing his hand over his big head, on which the
dense mane of hair which had been shaved off was beginning to grow again.
"Well then, Mandane, in that case--I wanted to say it yesterday, but I
could not get it out.--Tell me: why would you be sorry if I were to leave
you?"

"Because--well, no one can have all their reasons ready; because you have
always been kind to me; and because you came from my country, and talk
Persian with me as my mother used."

"Is that all?"  said the man slowly, and he rubbed his forehead.

"No, no.  Because--if once you go away, you will not be here."

"Aye that is it; that is just the thing.  And if you would be sorry for
that, then you must have liked being here--with me."

"And why not?  It has been very nice," said the girl blushing and trying
not to meet his eyes.

"That it has--and that it is!"  cried Rustem, striking his palm with the
other huge fist.  "And that is why I must have it out; that is why, if we
have any sense, we two need never part."

"But your master is sure to want you," said she with growing confusion,
"and we cannot always remain a burthen on the kind folks here.  I shall
not work at the loom again; but as I am now free, and have the scroll
that proves it, I must soon look about for some employment.  And a
strong, healthy fellow like you cannot always be nursing yourself."

"Nursing myself!"  and he laughed gaily.  "I will earn money, and enough
for three!"

"By your camels always, up and down the country?"

"I have done with that," said he with a grin.  "We will go back to our
own country; there I will buy a good piece of pasture land, for my eldest
brother has our little estate, and you may ask Haschim whether I
understand camel-breeding."

"But Rustem, consider."

"Consider!  Think this, and think that!  Where there's a will there's a
way.  That is the upshot of it all.  And if you mean to say that before
you buy you must have money, and that the best may come to grief, all I
can tell you is...  Can you read?  No?  nor I; but here in my pocket I
have my accounts in the master's own hand.  Eleven thousand, three
hundred and sixty drachmae were due to me for wages the last time we
reckoned: all the profit the master had set down to my credit since I led
his caravan.  He has kept almost all of it for me; for food was allowed,
and there was almost always a bit of stuff for a garment to be found
among the bales, and I never was a sot.  Eleven thousand, three hundred
and sixty drachmae!  Hey, little one, that is the figure.  And now what
do you say?  Can we buy something with that?  Yes or no?"

He looked at her triumphantly, and she eagerly replied: "Yes, yes indeed;
and in our country I think something worth having."

"And we--you and I--we will begin a quite new life.  I was seventeen when
I first set out with my master, and I was twenty-six last midsummer.  How
many years wandering does that make?"

They both thought this over for some time; then Mandane said doubtfully

"If I am not mistaken it is eight."

"I believe it is nine," he exclaimed.  "Let us see.  Here, give me your
little paw!  There, I begin with seventeen, that is where I started.
First your little-finger--what a mite of a thing, and then the rest."  He
took her right hand and counted off her fingers till he ended with the
last finger of the left.  The result puzzled him; he shook his head,
saying: "There are ten fingers on both hands, sure enough, and yet it
cannot be ten years; it is nine at most I know."

He began the counting, which he liked uncommonly, all over again; but
with the same result.  Mandane said it was but nine, she had counted it
up herself; and he agreed, and declared that her little fingers must be
bewitched.  And this game would have gone on still longer but that she
remembered that the seventeen must not be included at all, and that he
ought to begin with eighteen.  Rustem could not immediately take this in,
and even when he admitted it he did not release her hand, but went on
with gay resolution:

"And you see, my girl, I mean to keep this little hand--you may pull it
away if you choose--but it is mine, and the pretty little maid, and all
that belongs to it.  And I will take you and both your hands, bewitched
fingers and all, home with me.  There they may weave and stitch as much
as you like; but as man and wife no one shall part us, and we will lead a
life such a life!  The joys of Paradise shall be no better than a rap on
the skull with an olive-wood log in comparison!"

He tried to take her hand again, but she drew it away, saying in deep
confusion and without looking up: "No, Rustem.  I was  afraid yesterday
that it would come to this; but it can never, never be.  I am grateful--
oh! so grateful; but no, it cannot be, and that must be the end of it.
I can never be your wife.  Rustem."

"No?" he asked with a scowl, and the veins swelled in his low forehead.
"Then you have been making a fool of me!--as to the gratitude you talk
of...."

He stood up in hot excitement; she laid her hand on his arm, drew him
down on to the seat again, and ventured to steal an imploring look into
his eyes, which never could long flash with anger.  Then she said:

How you break out!  I shall really and truly be very grieved to part from
you; cannot you see that I am fond of you?  But indeed, indeed it will
never do, I--oh! if only I might go back, home, and with you.  Yes, with
you, as your wife.  What a proud and happy thought!  And how gladly would
I work for us both--for I am very handy and hard-working, but. . . ."

"But?"  he repeated, and he put his big, sun-burnt face close to hers,
looking as if he could break her in pieces.

"But it cannot be, for your sake; it must not be, positively, certainly.
I will not make you so bad a return for all your kindness.  What! have
you forgotten what I was, what I am?  You, as a freeman, will soon have
a nice little estate at home, and may command respect and reverence from
all; but how different it would be if you had a wife like me at your
heels--if only from the fact that I was once a slave."

"That is the history of it all!"  he interrupted, and his brow cleared.
"That is what is troubling your dear little soul!  But do you not know
who and what I am?  Have I not told you what a Masdakite is?

     [Eutychius, Bishop of Alexandria thus describes the communistic
     doctrine of Masdak: "God has given to men on earth that which is of
     the earth to the end that it may be divided equally among them, and
     that no more falls to the lot of one than another.  And if one hath
     more than is seemly of money or wives or slaves or movable goods, we
     will take it from him to the end that he and the rest may be equal."]

We Masdakites believe, nay, we know, that all men are born equal, and
that this mad-cap world would be a better place if there were neither
masters nor servants; however, as things are, so they must remain.  The
great Lord of Heaven will suffer it yet for a season; but sooner or
later, perhaps very soon, everything will be quite different, and it is
our business to make ready for the day of equality.  Then Paradise will
return on earth; there will be none greater or less than another, but we
shall all walk hand-in-hand and stand by each other on an equal footing.
Then shall war and misery cease; for all that is fair and good on earth
belongs to all men in common; and then all men shall be as willing to
give and to help others, as they now are to seize and to oppress.--We
have no marriage bond like other people; but when a man loves a woman he
says, 'Will you be mine?' and if her heart consents she follows him home;
and one may quit the other if love grows cold.  Still, no married couple,
whether Christian or Parsee, ever clung together more faithfully than my
parents or my grandparents; and we will do the same to the end, for our
love will bind us firmly together with strong cords that will last longer
than our lives.--So now you know the doctrine of our master Masdak; my
father and grandfather both followed it, and I was taught it by my mother
when I was a little child.  All in our village were Masdakites; and there
was not a slave in the place; the land belonged to all in common and was
tilled by all, and the harvest was equally shared.  However, they no
longer receive strangers, and I must seek for fellow-believers elsewhere.
Still, a Masdakite I shall always remain; and, if I were to take a slave
for my wife, I should only be acting on the precepts of the master and
helping them on.  But as for you, the case does not apply to you, for you
are the child of a brave freeman, respected in all the land; our people
will regard you as a prisoner of war, not as a slave.  They will look up
to me as your deliverer.  And if I had found you, just as you are, the
meanest of slaves and keeping pigs, I would have put my hand in my wallet
at once and have bought your freedom and have carried you off home as my
wife--and no Masdakite who saw you would ever blame me.  Now you know all
about it, and there, I hope, is an end of your coyness and mincing."

Mandane, however, still would not yield; she looked at him with eyes that
entreated his pity, and pointed to her cropped ears.

Rustem shrugged his shoulders with a laugh.  "Of course, that too, into
the bargain; You will not let me off any part of it!  If it had been your
eyes now, you would not have been able to see, and no countryman can do
with a blind wife, so I should leave you where you are.  But you, little
one, have hearing as sharp as a bird's?  And what bird--pretty little
things--did you ever see with ears, unless it were a bat or a nasty owl?
--That is all nonsense.  Besides, who can see what you have lost now that
Pulcheria has brought your hair down so prettily?  And do not you
remember the head-dress our women wear?  You might have ears as long as a
hare's, and what good would it do you?--no one could see them.  Just as
you are, a lily grown like a cypress, you are ten times sweeter to look
at than the prettiest girl there, if she had three or even four ears.  A
girl with three ears!  Only think, Mandane, where could the third ear
grow?"

How heartily he laughed, and how glad he was to have hit on this jest and
have turned off a subject which might so well be painful to her!  But his
mirth failed of its effect, and only brought a silent smile to her lips.
Even this died quickly away, and in its place there came such a sad,
pathetic expression, as she hung her pretty head, that he could neither
carry on the joke nor reproach her sharply.  He said compassionately,
with a little shake of the head:

"But you must not look like that, my pigeon: I cannot bear it.  What is
it that is weighing on your little soul?  Courage, courage, sweetheart,
and make a clean breast of it!--But no!  Do not speak.  I can spare you
that!  I know, poor little darling--it is that old story of the
governor's son."

She nodded, and her eyes filled with tears; and he, with a loud sigh,
exclaimed: "I thought as much, I was right, poor child!"

He took her hand, and went on bravely:

"Yes, that has given me some bad hours, too, and a great deal to think
about; in fact, I came very near to leaving you alone and spoiling my own
happiness and yours too.  But I came to my senses before it was too late.
Not on account of what Dame Joanna said the day before yesterday--though
what she says must be true, and she told me that all--you know what--was
at an end.  No; my own sense told me this time; for I said to myself:
Such a motherless, helpless little thing, a slave, too, and as pretty as
the angels, her master's son took a fancy to her, how could she defend
herself?  And how cruelly the poor little soul was punished!--Yes, little
one, you may well weep!  Why, my own eyes are full of tears.  Well, so it
had to be and so it was.  You and I and the Lord Almighty and the Hosts
of Heaven--who can do anything against us?--So you see that even a poor
fool like me can understand how it all came about; and I do not accuse
you, nor have I anything to forgive.  It was just a dreadful misfortune.
But it has come to a good end, thank God I and I can forget it entirely
and for ever, if only you can say:  'It is all over and done with and
buried like the dead!'"

Before he could hinder her, she snatched his hand, to her lips with
passionate affection and sobbed out:

"You are so good!  Oh!  Rustem, there is not another man on earth so good
as you are, and my mother will bless you for it.  Do what you will with
me!  And I declare to you, once for all that all that is past and gone,
and only to think of it gives me horror.  And it was exactly as you say:
my mother dead, no one to warn me or protect me,--I was hardly sixteen,
a simple, ignorant creature, and he called me, and it all came over me
like a dream in my sleep; and when I awoke. . . ."

"There we are," he interrupted and he tried to laugh as he wiped his
eyes.  "Both laid up with holes in our heads.--And when I am in my own
country I always think the prettiest time is just when the hard winter-
frost is over, and the snow melted, and all the flowers in the valleys
rush into bloom--and so I feel now, my little girl.  Everything will be
well now, we shall be so wonderfully happy.  The day before yesterday, do
you know, I still was not quite clear about it all.  Your trouble gave me
no peace, and it went against the grain-well, you can understand.  But
then, later, when I was lying in my room and the moon shone down on my
bed. . ."  and a rapt expression came into his face that strangely
beautified his harsh features, "I could not help asking myself: 'Although
the moon went down into the sea this morning, does that prevent its
shining as brightly as ever to-night, and bringing a cooler breeze?'  And
if a human soul has gone under in the same way, may it not rise up again,
bright and shining, when it has bathed and rested?  And such a heart--of
course every man would like to have its love all to himself, but it may
have enough to give more than once.  For, as I remembered, my mother,
though she loved me dearly, when another child came and yet another gave
them the best she had to give; and I was none the worse when she had my
youngest sister at the breast, nor was she when I was petted and kissed.
And it must be just the same with you.  Thought I to myself: though she
once loved another man, she may still have a good share left for me!"

"Yes, indeed, Rustem !"  she exclaimed, looking tearfully but gratefully
into his eyes.  "All that is in me of love and tenderness is for you--for
you only."

At this he joyfully exclaimed:

"All, that is indeed good hearing!  That will do for me; that is what I
call a good morning's work!  I sat down under this tree a vagabond and a
wanderer, and I get up a future land-holder, with the sweetest little
wife in the world to keep house for me."

They sat a long time under the shady foliage; he craved no more than to
gaze at her and, when he put the old questions asked by all lovers, to be
answered with lips and eyes, or merely a speechless nod.  Her hands no
longer plied the needle, and the pair would have smiled in pity on any
one who should have complained of the intolerable heat of this scorching,
parching forenoon.  A pair of turtle doves over their heads were less
indifferent to the sun's rays than they, for the birds had closed their
eyes, and the head of the mother bird was resting languidly against the
dark collar round her mate's neck.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Better place if there were neither masters nor servants
See with agonizing clearness what he had lost in her





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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