Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Bride of the Nile — Volume 02
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 02" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE BRIDE OF THE NILE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 2.



CHAPTER VI.

Pangs of soul and doubtings of conscience had, in fact, prompted the
governor to purchase the hanging and he therefore might have been glad if
it had cost him still dearer.  The greater the gift the better founded
his hope of grace and favor from the recipient!  And he had grounds for
being uneasy and for asking himself whether he had acted rightly.
Revenge was no Christian virtue, but to let the evil done to him by the
Melchites go unpunished when the opportunity offered for crushing them
was more than he could bring himself to.  Nay, what father whose two
bright young sons had been murdered, but would have done as he did?  That
fearful blow had struck him in a vital spot.  Since that day he had felt
himself slowly dying; and that sense of weakness, those desperate
tremors, the discomforts and suffering which blighted every hour of his
life, were also to be set down to the account of the Melchite tyrants.

His waning powers had indeed only been kept up by his original vigor and
his burning thirst for revenge, and fate had allowed him to quench it in
a way which, as time went on, seemed too absolute to his peace-loving
nature.  Though not indeed by his act, still with his complicity he saw
the Byzantine Empire bereft of the rich province which Caesar had
entrusted to his rule, saw the Greeks and everything that bore the name
of Melchite driven out of Egypt with ignominy--though he would gladly
have prevented it--in many places slain like dogs by the furious populace
who hailed the Moslems as their deliverers.

Thus all the evil he had invoked on the murderers of his children and the
oppressors and torturers of his people had come upon them; his revenge
was complete.  But, in the midst of his satisfaction at this strange
fulfilment of the fervent wish of years, his conscience had lifted up its
voice; new, and hitherto unknown terrors had come upon him.  He lacked
the strength of mind to be a hero or a reformer.  Too great an event had
been wrought through his agency, too fearful a doom visited on thousands
of men!  The Christian Faith--to him the highest consideration--had been
too greatly imperilled by his act, for the thought that he had caused all
this to be calmly endurable.  The responsibility proved too heavy for his
shoulders; and whenever he repeated to himself that it was not he who had
invited the Arabs into the land, and that he must have been crushed in
the attempt to repel them, he could hear voices all round him denouncing
him as the man who had surrendered his native land to them, and he
fancied himself environed by dangers--believing those who spoke to him of
assassins sent forth by the Byzantines to kill him.--But even more
appalling, was his dread of the wrath of Heaven against the man who had
betrayed a Christian country to the Infidels.  Even his consciousness of
having been, all his life long, a right-minded, just man could not
fortify him against this terror; there was but one thing which could
raise his quelled spirit: the white pillules which had long been as
indispensable to him as air and water.  The kind-hearted old bishop of
Memphis, Plotinus, and his clergy had forgiveness for all; the Patriarch
Benjamin, on the contrary, had treated him as a reprobate sentenced to
eternal damnation, though at the time of this prelate's exile in the
desert he had hailed the Arabs as their deliverers from the tyranny of
the Melchites, and though George had principally contributed to his
recall and reinstatement, and had therefore counted on his support.  And,
although the Mukaukas could clearly see through the secondary motives
which influenced the Patriarch, he nevertheless believed that Benjamin's
office as Shepherd of souls gave him power to close the Gates of Heaven
against any sheep in his flock.

The more firmly the Arabs took root in his land, the wiser their rule,
and the, more numerous the Egyptian converts from the Cross to the
Crescent, the greater he deemed his guilt; and when, after the
accomplishment of his work of vengeance--his double treason as the Greeks
called it--instead of the wrath of God, everything fell to his lot which
men call happiness and the favors of fortune, the superstitious man
feared lest this was the wages of the Devil, into whose clutches his
hasty compact with the Moslems had driven so many Christian souls.

He had unexpectedly fallen heir to two vast estates, and his excavators
in the Necropolis had found more gold in the old heathen tombs than all
the others put together.  The Moslem Khaliff and his viceroy had left him
in office and shown him friendship and respect; the bulaites--[Town
councillors]--of the town had given him the cognomen of "the Just" by
acclamation of the whole municipality; his lands had never yielded
greater revenues; he received letters from his son's widow in her convent
full of happiness over the new and higher aims in life that she had
found; his grandchild, her daughter, was a creature whose bright and
lovely blossoming was a joy even to strangers; his son's frequent
epistles from Constantinople assured him that he was making progress in
all respects; and he did not forget his parents; for he was never weary
of reporting to them, of his own free impulse, every, pleasure he enjoyed
and every success he won.

Thus even in a foreign land he had lived with the father and mother who
to him were all that was noblest and dearest.

And Paula!  Though his wife could not feel warmly towards her the old man
regarded her presence in the house as a happy dispensation to which he
owed many a pleasant hour, not only over the draughts-board.

All these things might indeed be the wages of Satan; but if indeed it
were so, he--George the Mukaukas--would show the Evil One that he was no
servant of his, but devoted to the Saviour in whose mercy he trusted.
With what fervent gratitude to the Almighty was his soul filled for the
return of such a son!  Every impulse of his being urged him to give
expression to this feeling; his terrors and gratitude alike prompted him
to spend so vast a sum in order to dedicate a matchless gift to the
Church of Christ.  He viewed himself as a prisoner of war whose ransom
has just been paid, as he handed to the merchant the tablet with the
order for the money; and when he was carried to bed, and his wife was not
yet weary of thanking him for his pious intention, he felt happier and
more light-hearted than he had done for many years.  Generally he could
hear Paula walking up and down her room which was over his; for she went
late to rest, and in the silence of the night would indulge in sweet and
painful memories.  How many loved ones a cruel fate had snatched from
her!  Father, brother, her nearest relations and friends; all at once, by
the hand of the Moslems to whom he had abandoned her native land almost
without resistance.

"I do not hear Paula to-night," he remarked, glancing up as though he
missed something.  "The poor child has no doubt gone to bed early after
what passed."

"Leave her alone!"  said Neforis who did not like to be interrupted in
her jubilant effusiveness, and she shrugged her shoulders angrily.  "How
she behaved herself again!  We have heard a great deal too much about
charity, and though I do not want to boast of my own I am very ready to
exercise it--indeed, it is no more than my duty to show every kindness
to a destitute relation of yours.  But this girl!  She tries me too far,
and after all I am no more than human.  I can have no pleasure in her
presence; if she comes into the room I feel as though misfortune had
crossed the threshold.  Besides!--You never see such things; but Orion
thinks of her a great deal more than is good.  I only wish she had been
safe out of the house!"

"Neforis!"  her husband said in mild reproach; and he would have reproved
her more sharply but that since he had become a slave to opium he had
lost all power of asserting himself vigorously whether in small matters
or great.

Ere long the Mukaukas had fallen into an uneasy sleep; but he opened his
eyes more frequently than usual.  He missed the light footfall overhead
to which he had been accustomed for these two years past; but she who was
wont to pace the floor above half the night through had not gone to rest
as he supposed.  After the events of the evening she had indeed retired
to her room with tingling cheeks and burning eyes; but the slave-girls,
who paid little attention to a guest who was no more than endured and
looked on askance by their mistress, had neglected to open her window-
shutters after sundown, as she had requested, and the room was
oppressively sultry and airless.  The wooden shutters felt hot to the
touch, so did the linen sheets over the wool mattrasses.  The water in
her jug, and even the handkerchief she took up were warm.  To an Egyptian
all this would have been a matter of course; but the native of Damascus
had always passed the summer in her father's country house on the heights
of Lebanon, in cool and lucent shade, and the all-pervading heat of the
past day had been to her intolerable.

Outside it was pleasant now; so without much reflection she pushed open
the shutter, wrapped a long, dark-hued kerchief about her head and stole
down the steep steps and out through a little side door into the court-
yard.

There she drew a deep breath and spread out her arms longingly, as though
she would fain fly far, far from thence; but then she dropped them again
and looked about her.  It was not the want of fresh air alone that had
brought her out; no, what she most craved for was to open her oppressed
and rebellious heart to another; and here, in the servants' quarters,
there were two souls, one of which knew, understood and loved her, while
the other was as devoted to her as a faithful dog, and did errands for
her which were to be kept hidden from the governor's house and its
inhabitants.

The first was her nurse who had accompanied her to Egypt; the other was a
freed slave, her father's head groom, who had escorted the women with his
son, a lad, giving them shelter when, after the massacre of Abyla, they
had ventured out of their hiding-place, and after lurking for some time
in the valley of Lebanon, had found no better issue than to fly to Egypt
and put themselves under the protection of the Mukaukas, whose sister had
been Paula's father's first wife.  She herself was the child of his
second marriage with a Syrian of high rank, a relation of the Emperor
Heraclius, who had died, quite young, shortly after Paula's birth.

Both these servants had been parted from her.  Perpetua, the nurse, had
been found useful by the governor's wife, who soon discovered that size
was particularly skilled in weaving and who had made her superintendent
of the slave-girls employed at the loom; the old woman had willingly
undertaken the duties though she herself was free-born, for her first
point in life was to remain near her beloved foster-child.  Hiram too,
the groom, and his son had found their place among the Mukaukas'
household; in the first instance to take charge of the five horses from
her father's stable which had brought the fugitives to Egypt, but
afterwards--for the governor was not slow to discern his skill in such
matters--as a leech for all sorts of beasts, and as an adviser is
purchasing horses.

Paula wanted to speak with them both, and she knew exactly where to find
them; but she could not get to them without exposing herself to much that
was unpleasant, for the governor's free retainers and their friends, not
to mention the guard of soldiers who, now that the gates were closed,
were still sitting in parties to gossip; they would certainly not break
up for some time yet, since the slaves were only now bringing out the
soldiers' supper.

The clatter in the court-yard was unceasing, for every one who was free
to come out was enjoying the coolness of the night.  Among them there
were no slaves; these had been sent to their quarters when the gates were
shut; but even in their dwellings voices were still audible.

With a beating heart Paula tried to see and hear all that came within the
ken of her keen eyes and ears.  The growing moon lighted up half the
enclosure, the rest, so far as the shadow fell, lay in darkness.  But in
the middle of a large semi-circle of free servants a fire was blazing,
throwing a fitful light on their brown faces; and now and again, as fresh
pine-cones were thrown in, it flared up and illuminated even the darker
half of the space before her.  This added to her trepidation; she had to
cross the court-yard, as she hoped, unseen; for innocent and natural as
her proceedings were, she knew that her uncle's wife would put a wrong
construction on her nocturnal expedition.

At first Neforis had begged her husband to assist Paula in her search for
her father, of whose death no one had any positive assurance.  But his
wife's urgency had not been needed: the Mukaukas, of his own free will,
had for a whole year done everything in his power to learn the truth as
to the lost man's end, from Christian or Moslem, till, many months since,
Neforis had declared that any further exertions in the matter were mere
folly, and her weak-willed husband had soon been brought to share her
views and give up the search for the missing hero.  He had secured for
Paula, not without some personal sacrifice, much of her father's
property, had sold the landed estates to advantage, collected outstanding
debts wherever it was still possible, and was anxious to lay before her a
statement of what he had recovered for her.  But she knew that her
interests were safe in his hands and was satisfied to learn that, though
she was not rich in the eyes of this Egyptian Croesus, she was possessed
of a considerable fortune.  When once and again she had asked for a
portion of it to prosecute her search, the Mukaukas at once caused it to
be paid to her; but the third time he refused, with the best intentions
but quite firmly, to yield to her wishes.  He said he was her Kyrios and
natural guardian, and explained that it was his duty to hinder her from
dissipating a fortune which she might some day find a boon or indeed
indispensable, in pursuit of a phantom--for that was what this search had
long since become.

     [Kyrios: The woman's legal proxy, who represented her in courts of
     justice.  His presence gave her equal rights with a man in the eyes
     of the Law.]

The money she had already spent he had replaced out of his own coffers.

This, she felt, was a noble action; still she urged him again and again
to grant her wish, but always in vain.  He laid his hand with firm
determination on the wealth in his charge and would not allow her another
solidus for the sole and dearest aim of her life.

She seemed to submit; but her purpose of spending her all to recover any
trace of her lost parent never wavered in her determined soul.  She had
sold a string of pearls, and for the price, her faithful Hiram had been
able first to make a long journey himself and then to send out a number
of messengers into various lands.  By this time one at least might very
well have reached home with some news, and she must see the freed-man.

But how could she get to him undetected?  For some minutes she stood
watching and listening for a favorable moment for crossing the court-
yard.  Suddenly a blaze lighted up a face--it was Hiram's.

At this moment the merry semi-circle laughed loudly as with one voice;
she hastily made up her mind--drew her kerchief closer over her face, ran
quickly along the darker half of the quadrangle and, stooping low,
hurried across the moonlight towards the slaves' quarters.

At the entrance she paused; her heart throbbed violently.  Had she been
observed?  No.--There was not a cry, not a following footstep--every dog
knew her; the soldiers who were commonly on guard here had quitted their
posts and were sitting with their comrades round the fire.

The long building to the left was the weaving shop and her nurse Perpetua
lived there, in the upper story.  But even here she must be cautious, for
the governor's wife often came out to give her orders to the workwomen,
and to see and criticise the produce of the hundred looms which were
always in motion, early and late.  If she should be seen, one of the
weavers might only too probably betray the fact of her nocturnal visit.
They had not yet gone to rest, for loud laughter fell upon her ear from
the large sheds, open on all sides, which stood over the dyers' vats.
This class of the governor's people were also enjoying the cool night
after the fierce heat of the day, and the girls too had lighted a fire.

Paula must pass them in full moonshine--but not just yet; and she
crouched close to the straw thatch which stretched over the huge clay
water-jars placed here for the slave-girls to get drink from.  It cast a
dark triangular shadow on the dusty ground that gleamed in the moonlight,
and thus screened her from the gaze of the girls, while she could hear
and see what was going on in the sheds.

The dreadful day of torture ending in a harsh discord was at end; and
behind it she looked back on a few blissful hours full of the promise of
new happiness;--beyond these lay a long period of humiliation, the sequel
of a terrible disaster.  How bright and sunny had her childhood been, how
delightful her early youth!  For long years of her life she had waked
every morning to new joys, and gone to rest every evening with sincere
and fervent thanksgivings, that had welled from her soul as freely and
naturally as perfume from a rose.  How often had she shaken her head in
perplexed unbelief when she heard life spoken of as a vale of sorrows,
and the lot of man bewailed as lamentable.  Now she knew better; and in
many a lonely hour, in many a sleepless night, she had asked herself
whether He could, indeed, be a kind and fatherly-loving God who could let
a child be born and grow up, and fill its soul with every hope, and then
bereave it of everything that was dear and desirable--even of hope.

But the hapless girl had been piously brought up; she could still believe
and pray; and lately it had seemed as though Heaven would grant that for
which her tender heart most longed: the love of a beloved and love-worthy
man.  And now--now?

There she stood with an inconsolable sense of bereavement--empty-hearted;
and if she had been miserable before Orion's return, now she was far more
so; for whereas she had then been lonely she was now defrauded--she, the
daughter of Thomas, the relation and inmate of the wealthiest house in
the country; and close to her, from the rough hewn, dirty dyers' sheds
such clear and happy laughter rang out from a troop of wretched slave
wenches, always liable to the blows of the overseer's rod, that she could
not help listening and turning to look at the girls on whom such an
overflow of high spirits and light-heartedness was bestowed.

A large party had collected under the wide palm-thatched roof of the
dyeing shed-pretty and ugly, brown and fair, tall and short; some upright
and some bent by toil at the loom from early youth, but all young; not
one more than eighteen years old.  Slaves were capital, bearing interest
in the form of work and of children.  Every slave girl was married to a
slave as soon as she was old enough.  Girls and married women alike were
employed in the weaving shop, but the married ones slept in separate
quarters with their husbands and children, while the maids passed the
night in large sleeping-barracks adjoining the worksheds.  They were now
enjoying the evening respite and had gathered in two groups.  One party
were watching an Egyptian girl who was scribbling sketches on a tablet;
the others were amusing themselves with a simple game.  This consisted in
each one in turn flinging her shoe over her head.  If it flew beyond a
chalk-line to which she turned her back she was destined soon to marry
the man she loved; if it fell between her and the mark she must yet have
patience, or would be united to a companion she did not care for.

The girl who was drawing, and round whom at least twenty others were
crowded, was a designer of patterns for weaving; she had too the gift
which had characterized her heathen ancestors, of representing faces in
profile, with a few simple lines, in such a way that, though often
comically distorted, they were easily recognizable.  She was executing
these works of art on a wax tablet with a copper stylus, and the others
were to guess for whom they were meant.

One girl only sat by herself by the furthest post of the shed, and gazed
silently into her lap.

Paula looked on and could understand everything that was going forward,
though no coherent sentence was uttered and there was nothing to be heard
but laughter--loud, hearty, irresistible mirth.  When a girl threw the
shoe far enough the youthful crowd laughed with all their might, each one
shouting the name of some one who was to marry her successful companion;
if the shoe fell within the line they laughed even louder than before,
and called out the names of all the oldest and dirtiest slaves.  A dusky
Syrian had failed to hit the mark, but she boldly seized the chalk and
drew a fresh line between herself and the shoe so that it lay beyond, at
any rate; and their merriment reached a climax when a number of them
rushed up to wipe out the new line, a saucy, crisp-haired Nubian tossed
the shoe in the air and caught it again, while the rest could not cease
for delight in such a good joke and cried every name they could think of
as that of the lover for whom their companion had so boldly seized a
spoke in Fortune's wheel.

Some spirit of mirth seemed to have taken up his quarters in the draughty
shed; the group round the sketcher was not less noisy than the other.  If
a likeness was recognized they were all triumphant, if not they cried the
names of this or that one for whom it might be intended.  A storm of
applause greeted a successful caricature of the severest of the
overseers.  All who saw it held their sides for laughing, and great was
the uproar when one of the girls snatched away the tablet and the rest
fell upon her to scuffle for it.

Paula had watched all this at first with distant amazement, shaking her
head.  How could they find so much pleasure in such folly, in such
senseless amusements?  When she was but a little child even she, of
course, could laugh at nothing, and these grown-up girls, in their
ignorance and the narrow limitations of their minds, were they not one
and all children still?  The walls of the governor's house enclosed their
world, they never looked beyond the present moment--just like children;
and so, like children, they could laugh.

"Fate," thought she, "at this moment indemnifies them for the misfortune
of their birth and for a thousand days of misery, and presently they will
go tired and happy to bed.  I could envy these poor creatures!  If it
were permissible I would join them and be a child again."

The comic portrait of the overseer was by this time finished, and a
short, stout wench burst into a fit of uproarious and unquenchable
laughter before any of the rest.  It came so naturally, too, from the
very depths of her plump little body that Paula, who had certainly not
come hither to be gay, suddenly caught the infection and had to laugh
whether she would or no.  Sorrow and anxiety were suddenly forgotten,
thought and calculation were far from her; for some minutes she felt
nothing but that she, too, was laughing heartily, irrepressibly, like the
young healthful human creature that she was.  Ah, how good it was thus to
forget herself for once!  She did not put this into words, but she felt
it, and she laughed afresh when the girl who had been sitting apart
joined the others, and exclaimed something which was unintelligible to
Paula, but which gave a new impetus to their mirth.

The tall slight form of this maiden was now standing by the fire.  Paula
had never seen her before and yet she was by far the handsomest of them
all; but she did not look happy and perhaps was in some pain, for she had
a handkerchief over her head which was tied at the top over the thick
fair hair as though she had the toothache.  As she looked at her Paula
recovered herself, and as soon as she began to think merriment was at an
end.  The slave-girls were not of this mind; but their laughter was less
innocent and frank than it had been; for it had found an object which
they would have done better to pass by.

The girl with the handkerchief over her head was a slave too, but she had
only lately come into the weaving-sheds after being employed for a long
time at needle work under two old women, widows of slaves.  She had been
brought as an infant from Persia to Alexandria with her mother, by the
troops of Heraclius, after the conquest of Chosroes II.; and they had
been bought together for the Mukaukas.  When her little one was but
thirteen the mother died under the yoke to which she was not born; the
child was a sweet little girl with a skin as white as the swan and thick
golden hair, which now shone with strange splendor in the firelight.
Orion had remarked her before his journey, and fascinated by the beauty
of the Persian girl, had wished to have her for his own.  Servants and
officials, in unscrupulous collusion, had managed to transport her to a
country-house belonging to the Mukaukas on the other side of the Nile,
and there Orion had been able to visit her undisturbed as often as fancy
prompted him.  The slave-girl, scarcely yet sixteen, ignorant and
unprotected, had not dared nor desired to resist her master's handsome
son, and when Orion had set out for Constantinople--heedless and weary
already of the girl who had nothing to give him but her beauty--Dame
Neforis found out her connection with her son and ordered the head
overseer to take care that the unhappy girl should not "ply her seductive
arts" any more.  The man had carried out her instructions by condemning
the fair Persian, according to an ancient custom, to have her ears cut
off.  After this cruel punishment the mutilated beauty sank into a state
of melancholy madness, and although the exorcists of the Church and other
thaumaturgists had vainly endeavored to expel the demon of madness, she
remained as before: a gentle, good-humored creature, quiet and diligent
at her work, under the women who had charge of her, and now in the common
work-shop.  It was only when she was idle that her craziness became
evident, and of this the other girls took advantage for their own
amusement.

They now led Mandane to the fire, and with farcical reverence requested
her to be seated on her throne--an empty color cask, for she suffered
under the strange permanent delusion that she was the wife of the
Mukaukas George.  They laughingly did her homage, craved some favor or
made enquiries as to her husband's health and the state of her affairs.
Hitherto a decent instinct of reserve had kept these poor ignorant
creatures from mentioning Orion's name in her presence, but now a woolly-
headed negress, a lean, spiteful hussy, went up to her, and said with a
horrible grimace:

"Oh, mistress, and where is your little son Orion?"  The crazy girl did
not seem startled by the question; she replied very gravely: "I have
married him to the emperor's daughter at Constantinople."

"Hey day!  A splendid match!"  exclaimed the black girl.  "Did you know
that the young lord was here again?  He has brought home his grand wife
to you no doubt, and we shall see purple and crowns in these parts!"

These words brought a deep flush into the poor creature's face.  She
anxiously pressed her hands on the bandage that covered her ears and
said: "Really Has he really come home?"

"Only quite lately," said another and more good-natured girl, to soothe
her.

"Do not believe her!"  cried the negress.  "And if you want to know the
latest news of him: Last night he was out boating on the Nile with the
tall Syrian.  My brother, the boatman, was among the rowers; and he went
on finely with the lady I can tell you, finely. . . ."

"My husband, the great Mukaukas?"  asked Mandane, trying to collect her
ideas.

"No.  Your son Orion, who married the emperor's daughter," laughed the
negress.

The crazy girl stood up, looked about with a restless glance, and then,
as though she had not fully understood what had been said to her,
repeated: "Orion?  Handsome Orion?"

"Aye, your sweet son, Orion!"  they all shouted, as loud as though she
were deaf.  Then the usually placable girl, holding her hand over her
ear, with the other hit her tormentor such a smack on her thick lips that
it resounded, while she shrieked out loud, in shrill tones:

"My son, did you say?  My son Orion?--As if you did not know!  Why, he
was my lover; yes, he himself said he was, and that was why they came and
bound me and cut my ears.--But you know it.  But I do not love him--I
could, I might wish, I. . . ."  She clenched her fists, and gnashed her
white teeth, and went on with panting breath:

"Where is he?--You will not tell me?  Wait a bit--only wait.  Oh, I am
sharp enough, I know you have him here.--Where is be?  Orion, Orion,
where are you?"

She sprang away, ran through the sheds and lifted the lids of all the
color-vats, stooping low to look down into each as if she expected to
find him there, while the others roared with laughter.

Most of her companions giggled at this witless behavior; but some, who
felt it somewhat uncanny and whom the unhappy girl's bitter cry had
struck painfully, drew apart and had already organized some new
amusement, when a neat little woman appeared on the scene, clapping her
plump hands and exclaiming:

"Enough of laughter--now, to bed, you swarm of bees.  The night is over
too soon in the morning, and the looms must be rattling again by sunrise.
One this way and one that, just like mice when the cat appears.  Will you
make haste, you night-birds?  Come, will you make haste?"

The girls had learnt to obey, and they hurried past the matron to their
sleeping-quarters.  Perpetua, a woman scarcely past fifty, whose face
wore a pleasant expression of mingled shrewdness and kindness, stood
pricking up her ears and listening; she heard from the water-shed a
peculiar low, long-drawn Wheeuh!--a signal with which she was familiar
as that by which the prefect Thomas had been wont to call together his
scattered household from the garden of his villa on Mount Lebanon.  It
was now Paula who gave the whistle to attract her nurse's attention.

Perpetua shook her head anxiously.  What could have brought her beloved
child to see her at so late an hour?  Something serious must have
occurred, and with characteristic presence of mind she called out, to
show that she had heard Paula's signal: "Now, make haste.  Will you be
quick?  Wheeuh! girls--wheeuh!  Hurry, hurry!"

She followed the last of the slave-girls into the sleeping-room, and when
she had assured herself that they were all there but the crazy Persian
she enquired where she was.  They had all seen her a few minutes ago in
the shed; so she bid them good-night and left them, letting it be
understood that she was about to seek the missing girl.



CHAPTER VII.

Paula went into her nurse's room, and Perpetua, after a short and vain
search for the crazy girl, abandoned her to her fate, not without some
small scruples of conscience.

A beautifully-polished copper lamp hung from the ceiling and the little
room exactly suited its mistress both were neat and clean, trim and
spruce, simple and yet nice.  Snowy transparent curtains enclosed the bed
as a protection against the mosquitoes, a crucifix of delicate
workmanship hung above the head of the couch, and the seats were covered
with good cloth of various colors, fag-ends from the looms.  Pretty straw
mats lay on the floor, and pots of plants, filling the little room with
fragrance, stood on the window-sill and in a corner of the room where a
clay statuette of the Good Shepherd looked down on a praying-desk.

The door had scarcely closed behind them when Perpetua exclaimed: "But
child, how you frightened me!  At so late an hour!"

"I felt I must come," said Paula.  I could contain myself no longer."

"What, tears?"  sighed the woman, and her own bright little eyes twinkled
through moisture.  "Poor soul, what has happened now?"

She went up to the young girl to stroke her hair, but Paula rushed into
her arms, clung passionately round her neck, and burst into loud and
bitter weeping.  The little matron let her weep for a while; then she
released herself, and wiped away her own tears and those of her tall
darling, which had fallen on her smooth grey hair.  She took Paula's chin
in a firm hand and turned her face towards her own, saying tenderly but
decidedly: "There, that is enough.  You might cry and welcome, for it
eases the heart, but that it is so late.  Is it the old story: home-
sickness, annoyances, and so forth, or is there anything new?"

"Alas, indeed!"  replied the girl.  She pressed her handkerchief in her
hands as she went on with excited vehemence: "I am in the last extremity,
I can bear it no longer, I cannot--I cannot!  I am no longer a child, and
when in the evening you dread the night and in the morning dread the day
which must be so wretched, so utterly unendurable. . . ."

"Then you listen to reason, my darling, and say to yourself that of two
evils it is wise to choose the lesser.  You must hear me say once more
what I have so often represented to you before now: If we renounce our
city of refuge here and venture out into the wide world again, what shall
we find that will be an improvement?"

"Perhaps nothing but a hovel by a well under a couple of palm-trees; that
would satisfy me, if I only had you and could be free--free from every
one else!"

"What is this; what does this mean?"  muttered the elder woman shaking
her head.  "You were quite content only the day before yesterday.
Something must have.  .  .  ."

"Yes, must have happened and has," interrupted the girl almost beside
herself.  "My uncle's son.--You were there when he arrived--and I
thought, even I firmly believed that he was worthy of such a reception.
--I--I--pity me, for I.  .  .  You do not know what influence that man
exercises over hearts.--And I--I believed his eyes, his words, his songs
and--yes, I must confess all--even his kisses on this hand!  But it was
all false, all--a lie, a cruel sport with a weak, simple heart, or even
worse--more insulting still!  In short, while he was doing all in his
power to entrap me--even the slaves in the barge observed it--he was in
the very act--I heard it from Dame Neforis, who is only too glad when she
can hurt me--in the very act of suing for the hand of that little doll--
you know her--little Katharina.  She is his betrothed; and yet the
shameless wretch dares to carry on his game with me; he has the face...."

Again Paula sobbed aloud; but the older woman did not know how to help in
the matter and could only mutter to herself:  "Bad, bad--what, this too!
--Merciful Heaven! .  .  ."  But she presently recovered herself and said
firmly: "This is indeed a new and terrible misfortune; but we have known
worse--much, much worse!  So hold up your head, and whatever liking you
may have in your heart for the traitor, tear it out and trample on it.
Your pride will help you; and if you have only just found out what my
lord Orion is, you may thank God that things had gone no further between
you!"  Then she repeated to Paula all that she knew of Orion's misconduct
to the frenzied Mandane, and as Paula gave strong utterance to her
indignation, she went on:

"Yes, child, he is a man to break hearts and ruin happiness, and perhaps
it was my duty to warn you against him; but as he is not a bad man in
other things--he saved the brother of Hathor the designer--you know her
--from drowning, at the risk of his own life--and as I hoped you might be
on friendly terms with him at least, on his return home, I refrained....
And besides, old fool that I am, I fancied your proud heart wore a
breastplate of mail, and after all it is only a foolish girl's heart like
any other, and now in its twenty-first year has given its love to a man
for the first time."

But Paula interrupted her:  "I love the traitor no more!  No, I hate him,
hate him beyond words!  And the rest of them!  I loathe them all!"

"Alas! that it should be so!" sighed the nurse.  "Your lot is no doubt a
hard one.  He--Orion--of course is out of the question; but I often ask
myself whether you might not mend matters with the others.  If you had
not made it too hard for them, child, they must have loved you; they
could not have helped it; but ever since you have been in the house you
have only felt miserable and wished that they would let you go your own
way, and they--well they have done so; and now you find it ill to bear
the lot you chose for yourself.  It is so indeed, child, you need not
contradict me.  This once we will put the matter plainly: Who can hope to
win love that gives none, but turns away morosely from his fellow-
creatures?  If each of us could make his neighbors after his own pattern
--then indeed!  But life requires us to take them just as we find them,
and you, sweetheart, have never let this sink into your mind!"

"Well, I am what I am !"

"No doubt, and among the good you are the best--but which of them all can
guess that?  Every one to some extent plays a part.  And you!  What
wonder if they never see in you anything but that you are unhappy?  God
knows it is ten thousand times a pity that you should be!  But who can
take pleasure in always seeing a gloomy face?"

"I have never uttered a single word of complaint of my troubles to any
one of them!"  cried Paula, drawing herself up proudly.

"That  is  just the difficulty,"  replied  Perpetua.  "They took you in,
and thought it gave them a claim on your person and also on your sorrows.
Perhaps they longed to comfort you; for, believe me, child, there is a
secret pleasure in doing so.  Any one who is able to show us sympathy
feels that it does him more good than it does us.  I know life!  Has it
never occurred to you that you are perhaps depriving your relations in
the great house of a pleasure, perhaps even doing them an injury by
locking up your heart from them?  Your grief is the best side of you, and
of that you do indeed allow them to catch a glimpse; but where the pain
is you carefully conceal.  Every good man longs to heal a wound when he
sees it, but your whole demeanor cries out: 'Stay where you are, and
leave me in peace.'--If only you were good to your uncle!"

"But I am, and I have felt prompted a hundred times to confide in him--
but then. . ."

"Well--then?"

"Only look at him, Betta; see how he lies as cold as marble, rigid and
apathetic, half dead and half alive.  At first the words often rose to my
lips.  .  ."

"And now?"

"Now all the worst is so long past; I feel I have forfeited the right to
complain to him of all that weighs me down."

"Hm," said Perpetua who had no answer ready.  "But take heart, my child.
Orion has at any rate learnt how far he may venture.  You can hold your
head high enough and look cool enough.  Bear all that cannot be mended,
and if an inward voice does not deceive me, he whom we seek. . ."

"That was what brought me here.  Are none of our messengers returned
yet?"

"Yes, the little Nabathaean is come," replied her nurse with some
hesitation, "and he indeed--but for God's sake, child, form no vain
hopes!  Hiram came to me soon after sun-down.  .  ."

"Betta!"  screamed the girl, clinging to her nurse's arm.  "What has he
heard, what news does he bring?"

"Nothing, nothing!  How you rush at conclusions!  What he found out is
next to nothing.  I had only a minute to speak to Hiram.  To-morrow
morning he is to bring the man to me.  The only thing he told me.  .  ."

"By Christ's Wounds!  What was it?"

"He said that the messenger had heard of an elderly recluse, who had
formerly been a great warrior."

"My father, my father!"  cried Paula.  "Hiram is sitting by the fire with
the others.  Fetch him here at once--at once; I command you, Perpetua, do
you hear?  Oh best, dearest Betta!  Come with me; we will go to him."

"Patience, sweetheart, a little patience!"  urged the nurse.  "Ah, poor
dear soul, it will turn out to be nothing again; and if we again follow
up a false clue it will only lead to fresh disappointment."

"Never mind: you are to come with me."

"To all the servants round the fire, and at this time of night?  I should
think so indeed!--But do you wait here, child.  I know how it can be
managed.

"I will wake Hiram's Joseph.  He sleeps in the stable yonder--and then he
will fetch his father.  Ah! what impatience!  What a stormy, passionate
little heart it is!  If I do not do your bidding, I shall have you awake
all night, and wandering about to-morrow as if in a dream.--There, be
quiet, be quiet, I am going."

As she spoke she wrapped her kerchief round her head and hurried out;
Paula fell on her knees before the crucifix over the bed, and prayed
fervently till her nurse returned, Soon after she heard a man's steps on
the stairs and Hiram came in.

He was a powerful man of about fifty, with a pair of honest blue eyes in
his plain face.  Any one looking at his broad chest would conclude that
when he spoke it would be in a deep bass voice; but Hiram had stammered
from his infancy; and from constant companionship with horses he had
accustomed himself to make a variety of strange, inarticulate noises in a
high, shrill voice.  Besides, he was always unwilling to speak.  When he
found himself face to face with the daughter of his master and
benefactor, he knelt at her feet, looked up at her with faithful, dog-
like eyes full of affection, and kissed first her dress, and then her
hand which she held out to him.  Paula kindly but decidedly cut short the
expressions of delight at seeing her again which he painfully stammered
out; and when he at length began to tell his story his words came far too
slowly for her impatience.

He told her that the Nabathaean who had brought the rumor that had
excited her hopes, was not unwilling to follow up the trace he had found,
but he would not wait beyond noon the next day and had tried to bid for
high terms.

"He shall have them--as much as he wants!"  cried Paula.  But Hiram
entreated her, more by looks and vague cries than by articulate words,
not to hope for too much.  Dusare the Nabathaean--Perpetua now took up
the tale--had heard of a recluse, living at Raithu on the Red Sea, who
had been a great warrior, by birth a Greek, and who for two years had
been leading a life of penance in great seclusion among the pious
brethren on the sacred Mount of Sinai.  The messenger had not been able
to learn what his name in the world had been, but among the hermits he
was known as Paulus."

"Paulus!"  interrupted the girl with panting breath.  "A name that must
remind him of my mother and of me, yes, of me!  And he, the hero of
Damascus, who was called Thomas in the world, believing that I was dead,
has no doubt dedicated himself to the service of God and of Christ, and
has taken the name of Paulus, as Saul, the other man of Damascus did
after his con version,--exactly like him!  Oh!  Betta, Hiram, you will
see: it is he, it must be!  How can you doubt it?"

The Syrian shook his head doubtfully and gave vent to a long-drawn
whistle, and Perpetua clasped her hands exclaiming distressfully: "Did I
not say so?  She takes the fire lighted by shepherds at night to warm
their hands for the rising sun--the rattle of chariots for the thunders
of the Almighty!--Why, how many thousands have called themselves Paulus!
By all the Saints, child, I beseech you keep quiet, and do not try to
weave a holiday-robe out of airy mist!  Be prepared for the worst; then
you are armed against failure and preserve your right to hope!  Tell her,
tell her, Hiram, what else the messenger said; it is nothing positive;
everything is as uncertain as dust in the breeze."

The freedman then explained that this Nabathaean was a trustworthy man,
far better skilled in such errands than himself, for he understood both
Syriac and Egyptian, Greek and Aramaic; and nevertheless he had failed to
find out anything more about this hermit Paulus at Tor, where the monks
of the monastery of the Transfiguration had a colony.  Subsequently,
however, on the sea voyage to Holzum, he had been informed by some monks
that there was a second Sinai.  The monastery there--but here Perpetua
again was the speaker, for the hapless stammerer's brow was beaded with
sweat--the monastery at the foot of the peaked, heaven-kissing mountain,
had been closed in consequence of the heresies of its inhabitants; but in
the gorges of these great heights there were still many recluses, some in
a small Coenobium, some in Lauras and separate caves, and among these
perchance Paulus might be found.  This clue seemed a good one and she and
Hiram had already made up their minds to follow it up; but the warrior
monk was very possibly a stranger, and they had thought it would be cruel
to expose her to so keen a disappointment.

Here Paula interrupted her, crying in joyful excitement:

"And why should not something besides disappointment be my portion for
once?  How could you have the heart to deprive me of the hope on which my
poor heart still feeds?--But I will not be robbed of it.  Your Paulus of
Sinai is my lost father.  I feel it, I know it!  If I had not sold my
pearls, the Nabathaean. . . . But as it is.  When can you start, my good
Hiram?"

"Not before a fort--a fortnight at--at--at--soonest," said the man.
"I am in the governor's service now, and the day after to-morrow is the
great horse-fair at Niku.  The young master wants some stallions bought
and there are our foals to. . . ."

"I will implore my uncle to-morrow, to spare you," cried Paula.
"I will go on my knees to him."

"He will not let him go," said the nurse.  "Sebek the steward told him
all about it from me before the hour of audience and tried to have Hiram
released."

"And he said.... ?"

"The lady Neforis said it was all a mere will-o'-the-wisp, and my lord
agreed with her.  Then your uncle forbade Sebek to betray the matter to
you, and sent word to me that he would possibly send Hiram to Sinai when
the horse-fair was over.  So take patience, sweetheart.  What are two
weeks, or at most three--and then. . . ."

"But I shall die before then!"  cried Paula.  "The Nabathaean, you say,
is here and willing to go."

"Yes, Mistress."

"Then we will secure him," said Paula resolutely.  Perpetua, however, who
must have discussed the matter fully with her fellow-countryman, shook
her head mournfully and said: "He asks too much for us!"

She then explained that the man, being such a good linguist, had already
been offered an engagement to conduct a caravan to Ctesiphon.  This would
be a year's pay to him, and he was not inclined to break off his
negotiations with the merchant Hanno and search the deserts of Arabia
Petraea for less than two thousand drachmae.

"Two thousand drachmae!"  echoed Paula, looking down in distress and
confusion; but she presently looked up and exclaimed with angry
determination: "How dare they keep from me that which is my own?  If my
uncle refuses what I have to ask, and will ask, then the inevitable must
happen, though for his sake it will grieve me; I must put my affairs in
the hands of the judges."

"The judges?"  Perpetua smiled.  "But you cannot lay a complaint without
your kyrios, and your uncle is yours.  Besides: before they have settled
the matter the messenger may have been to Ctesiphon and back, far as it
is."

Again her nurse entreated her to have patience till the horse-fair should
be over.  Paula fixed her eyes on the ground.  She seemed quite crushed;
but Perpetua started violently and Hiram drew back a step when she
suddenly broke out in a loud, joyful cry of "Father in Heaven, I have
what we need!"

"How, child, what?"  asked the nurse, pressing her hand to her heart.
But Paula vouchsafed no information; she turned quickly to the Syrian:

"Is the outer court-yard clear yet?  Are the people gone?"  she asked.

The reply was in the affirmative.  The freed servants had retired when
Hiram left them.  The officials would not break up for some time yet, but
there was less difficulty in passing them.

"Very good," said the girl.  "Then you, Hiram, lead the way and wait for
me by the little side door.  I will give you something in my room which
will pay the Nabathaean's charges ten times over.  Do not look so
horrified, Betta.  I will give him the large emerald out of my mother's
necklace."  The woman clasped her hands, and cried out in dismay and
warning.

"Child, child!  That splendid gem!  an heirloom in the family--that stone
which came to you from the saintly Emperor Theodosius--to sell that of
all things!  Nay-to throw it away; not to rescue your father either, but
merely--yes child, for that is the truth, merely because you lack
patience to wait two little weeks!"

"That is hard, that is unjust, Betta," Paula broke in reprovingly.  "It
will be a question of a month, and we all know how much depends on the
messenger.  Do you forget how highly Hiram spoke of this very man's
intelligence?  And besides--must I, the younger, remind you?--What is the
life of man?  An instant may decide his life or death; and my father is
an old man, scarred from many wounds even before the siege.  It may make
just the difference between our meeting, or never meeting again."

"Yes, yes," said the old woman in subdued tones, "perhaps you are right,
and if I.  .  ."  But Paula stopped her mouth with a kiss, and then
desired Hiram to carry the gem, the first thing in the morning, to
Gamaliel the Jew, a wealthy and honest man, and not to sell it for less
than twelve thousand drachmae.  If the goldsmith could not pay so much
for it at once, he might be satisfied to bring away the two thousand
drachmae for the messenger, and fetch the remainder at another season.

The Syrian led the way, and when, after a long leave-taking, she quitted
her nurse's pleasant little room, Hiram had done her bidding and was
waiting for her at the little side door.



CHAPTER VIII.

As Hiram had supposed, the better class of the household were still
sitting with their friends, and they had been joined by the guide and by
the Arab merchant's head man: Rustem the Masdakite, as well as his
secretary and interpreter.

With the exception only of Gamaliel the Jewish goldsmith, and the Arab's
followers, the whole of the party were Christians; and it had gone
against the grain to admit the Moslems into their circle--the Jew had for
years been a welcome member of the society.  However, they had done so,
and not without marked civility; for their lord had desired that the
strangers should be made welcome, and they might expect to hear much that
was new from wanderers from such a distance.  In this, to be sure, they
were disappointed, for the dragoman was taciturn and the Masdakite could
speak no Egyptian, and Greek very ill.  So, after various futile attempts
to make the new-comers talk, they paid no further heed to them, and
Orion's secretary became the chief speaker.  He had already told them
yesterday much that was fresh and interesting about the Imperial court;
to-day he entered into fuller details of the brilliant life his young
lord had led at Constantinople, whither he had accompanied him.  He
described the three races he had won in the Circus with his own horses;
gave a lively picture of his forcing his way with only five followers
through a raging mob of rioters, from the palace to the church of St.
Sophia; and then enlarged on Orion's successes among the beauties of the
Capital.

"The queen of them all," he went on in boastful accents, "was Heliodora
--no flute-player nor anything of that kind; no indeed, but a rich,
elegant, and virtuous patrician lady, the widow of Flavianus, nephew to
Justinus the senator, and a relation of the Emperor.  All Constantinople
was at her feet, the great Gratian himself sought to win her, but of
course, in vain.  There is no palace to compare with hers in all Egypt,
not even in Alexandria.  The governor's residence here--for I think
nothing of mere size--is a peasant's hut--a wretched barn by comparison!
I will tell you another time what that casket of treasures is like.  Its
door was besieged day and night by slaves and freedmen bringing her
offerings of flowers and fruit, rare gifts, and tender verses written on
perfumed, rose-colored silk; but her favors were not to be purchased till
she met Orion.  Would you believe it: from the first time she saw him in
Justinus' villa she fell desperately in love with him; it was all over
with her; she was his as completely as the ring on my finger is mine!"

And in his vanity he showed his hearers a gold ring, with a gem of some
value, which he owed to the liberality of his young master.  "From that
day forth," he eagerly went on, "the names of Orion and Heliodora were in
every mouth, and how often have I seen men quite beside themselves over
the beauty of this divine pair.  In the Circus, in the theatre, or
sailing about the Bosphorus--they were to be seen everywhere together;
and through the hideous, bloody struggle for the throne they lived in a
Paradise of their own.  He often took her out in his chariot; or she took
him in hers."

"Such a woman has horses too?"  asked the head groom contemptuously.

"A woman!" cried the secretary.  "A lady of rank!--She has none but
bright chestnuts; large horses of Armenian breed, and small, swift beasts
from the island of Sardinia, which fly on with the chariot, four abreast,
like hunted foxes.  Her horses are always decked with flowers and ribbons
fluttering from the gold harness, and the grooms know how to drive them
too!--Well, every one thought that our young lord and the handsome widow
would marry; and it was a terrible blow to the hapless Heliodora when
nothing came of it--she looks like a saint and is as soft as a kitten.
I was by when they parted, and she shed such bitter tears it was pitiable
to see.  Still, she could not be angry with her idol, poor, gentle,
tender kitten.  She even gave him her lap-dog for a keepsake--that little
silky thing you have seen here.  And take my word for it, that was a true
love-token, for her heart was as much set on that little beast as if it
had been her favorite child.  And he felt the parting too, felt it
deeply; however, I am his confidential secretary, and it would never do
for me to tell tales out of school.  He clasped the little dog to his
heart as he bid her farewell, and he promised her to send some keepsake
in return which should show her how precious her love had been--and it
will be no trifle, that any one may swear who knows my master.  You,
Gamaliel, I daresay he has been to you about it by this time."

The man thus addressed--the same to whom Hiram was to offer Paula's
emerald--was a rich Alexandrian of a happy turn of mind; as soon as the
incursion of the Saracens had made Alexandria an unsafe residence, so
that the majority of his fellow Israelites had fled from the great port,
he had found his way to Memphis, where he could count on the protection
of his patron, the Mukaukas George.

He shook his grizzled curls at this question, but he presently whispered
in the secretary's ear.  "We have the very thing he wants.  You bring me
the cow and you shall have a calf--and a calf with twelve legs too.  Is
it a bargain?"

"Twelve per cent on the profits?  Done!"  replied the secretary in the
same tone, with a sly smile of intelligence.

When, by-and-bye, an accountant asked him why Orion had not brought home
this fair dame, the bearer too of a noble name, to his parents as their
daughter-in-law, he replied that, being a Greek, she was of course a
Melchite.  Those present asked no better reason; as soon as the question
of creed was raised the conversation, as usual in these convivial
evenings, became a squabble over dogmatic differences; in the course of
it a legal official ventured to opine that if the case had been that of a
less personage than a son of the Mukaukas--for whom it was, of course,
out of the question--of a mere Jacobite citizen and his Melchite
sweetheart, for instance, some compromise might have been effected.
They need only have made up their minds each, respectively, to subscribe
to the Monothelitic doctrine--though, he, for his part, could have
nothing to say to anything of the kind; it was warmly upheld by the
Imperial court, and by Cyrus, the deceased patriarch of Alexandria, and
was based on the assumption that there were indeed two natures in Christ,
but both under the control of one and the same will.  By this dogma there
were in the Saviour two persons no doubt; still it asserted His unity in
a certain qualified sense, and this was the most important point.

Such an heretical proposition was of course loudly disapproved of by the
assembled Jacobites; differences of opinion were more and more strongly
asserted, and a calm interchange of views turned to a riotous quarrel
which threatened to end in actual violence.

This discussion was already beginning when Paula succeeded in slipping
unseen across the court-yard.

She silently beckoned to Hiram to follow her; he cautiously took off his
shoes, pushed them under the steep servants' stairs, and in a few minutes
was standing in the young girl's room.  Paula at once opened a chest, and
took out a costly and beautifully-wrought necklace set with pearls.  This
she handed to the Syrian, desiring him to wrench from its setting a large
emerald which hung from the middle.  The freedman's strong hand, with the
aid of a knife, quickly and easily did the work; and he stood weighing
the gem, as it lay freed from the gold hemisphere that had held it,
larger than a walnut, shining and sparkling on his palm, while Paula
repeated the instructions she had already given him in her nurse's room.

The faithful soul had no sooner left his beloved mistress than she
proceeded to unplait her long thick hair, smiling the while with happy
hope; but she had not yet begun to undress when she heard a knock.  She
started, flew to the door and hastily bolted it, while she enquired:

"Who is there?"--preparing herself for the worst.  "Hiram," was the
whispered reply.  She opened the door, and he told her that meanwhile
the side door had been locked, and that he knew no other way out from
the great rambling house whither he rarely had occasion to come.

What was to be done?  He could not wait till the door was opened again,
for he must carry out her commission quite early in the morning, and if
he were caught and locked up for only half the day the Nabathaean would
take some other engagement.

With swift decision she twisted up her hair, threw a handkerchief over
her head, and said: "Then come with me; the moon is still up; it would
not be safe to carry a lamp.  I will lead the way and you must keep
behind me  If only the kitchen is empty, we can reach the Viridarium
unseen.  If the upper servants are still sitting in the court-yard the
great door will be open, for several of them sleep in the house.  At any
rate you must go through the vestibule; you cannot miss your way out of
the viridarium.  But stay! Beki generally lies in front of the tablinum--
the fierce dog from Herrionthis in Thebais; and he does not know you, for
he never goes out of the house, but he will obey me.

"When I lift my hand, hang back a little.  He is quite quiet with his
masters, and does not hurt a stranger if they are by.  Now, we must not
utter another word.--If we are discovered, I will confess the truth;
if you alone are seen, you can say--well, say you were waiting for Orion,
to speak to him very early about the horse-fair at Niku."

"A horse was off--off--offered me for sale this very day."

"Good, very good; then you lingered in the vestibule to speak of that--to
ask the master about it before he should go out.  It must be daylight in
a few hours.--Now, come."

Paula went down the stairs with a sure and rapid step.  At the bottom
Hiram again took off his shoes, holding them in his hand, so as to lose
no time in following his mistress.  They went on in silence through the
darkness till they reached the kitchen.  Here Paula turned and said to
the Syrian:

"If there is any one here, I will say I came to fetch some water; if
there is no one I will cough and you can follow.  At any rate I will
leave the door open, and then you will hear what happens.  If I am
obliged to return, do you hurry on before me back by the way we came.
In that case I will return to my room where you must wait outside till
the side door is opened again, and if you are found there leave the
explanation to me.--Shrink back, quite into that corner."

She softly opened the door into the kitchen; the roof was open to the
light of the declining moon and myriad stars.  The room was quite empty:
only a cat lay on a bench by the wide hearth, and a few bats flitted to
and fro on noiseless wings; a few live coals still glowed among the ashes
under the spits, like the eyes of lurking beasts of prey.  Paula coughed
gently, and immediately heard Hiram's step behind her; then, with a
beating heart and agonizing fears, she proceeded on her way.  First down
a few steps, then through a dark passage, where the bats in their
unswerving flight shot by close to her head.  At last they had to cross
the large, open dining-hall.  This led into the viridarium, a spacious
quadrangle, paved at the edges and planted in the middle, where a
fountain played; round this square the Governor's residence was built.
All was still and peaceful in this secluded space, vaulted over by the
high heavens whose deep blue was thickly dotted with stars.  The moon
would soon be hidden behind the top of the cornice which crowned the roof
of the building.  The large-leaved plants in the middle of the quadrangle
threw strange, ghostly shadows on the dewy grass-plot; the water in the
fountain splashed more loudly than by day, but with a soothing,
monotonous gurgle, broken now and then by a sudden short pause.  The
marble pillars gleamed as white as snow, and filmy mists, which were
beginning to rise from the damp lawn, floated languidly hither and
thither on the soft night breeze, like ghosts veiled in flowing crape.
Moths flitted noiselessly round and over the clumps of bushes, and the
whole quiet and restful enclosure was full of sweetness from the Lotos
flowers in the marble basin, from the blossoms of the luxuriant shrubs
and the succulent tropical herbs at their feet.  At any other time it
would have been a joy to pause and look round, only to breathe and let
the silent magic of the night exert its spell; but Paula's soul was
closed against these charms.  The sequestered silence lent a threatening
accent to the furious wrangling in the court-yard, which was audible even
here in bursts of uproar; and it was with an anxious heart that she
observed that everything was not in its usual order; for her sharp eyes
could discern no one, nothing, at the entrance to the tablinum, which was
usually guarded by an armed sentinel or by the watch-dog; and surely--
yes, she was not mistaken--the bronze doors were open, and the moon shone
on the bright metal of one half which stood ajar.

She stopped, and Hiram behind her did the same.  They both listened with
such tension that the veins in their foreheads swelled; but from the
tablinum, which was hardly thirty paces from them, came only very faint
and intermittent sounds, indistinct in character and drowned by the
tumult without.

A few long and anxious minutes, and then the half-closed door was
suddenly opened and a man came forth.  Paula's heart stood still, but she
did not for an instant lose her keenness of vision; she at once and
positively recognized the man who came out of the tablinum as Orion and
none other, and the big, long-haired dog too came out and past him,
sniffed the air and then, with a loud bark, rushed on the two watchers.
Trembling and with clenched teeth, but still mistress of herself, she let
him come close to her, and then, calling him by his name: "Beki" in low,
caressing tones, as soon as he recognized her, she laid her hand on his
shaggy head to scratch his ears, as he loved it done.

Paula and her companion were standing behind a column in the deepest
shadow.  Thus Orion could not see her, and the dog's loud bark had
prevented his hearing her coaxing call; so when Beki was quiet and stood
still, Orion whistled to him.  The obedient and watchful beast, ran back,
wagging his tail; and his master, greeting him as "a stupid old cat-
hunter," let him spring over his arm, hugged the creature and then pushed
him off again in play.  Then he closed the door and went into the
apartments leading to the courtyard.

"But he must come back this way to go to his own rooms," said Paula to
her companion with a sigh of relief.  "We must wait.  But now we must not
lose a minute.  Come over to the door of the tablinum.  The dog will know
me now and will not bark again."  They hastened on, and when they had
reached the door, which lay in shadow within a deep doorway, Paula asked
her companion:  "Did you see who the man was who came out?"

"My lord Orion," said Hiram.  "He was co--co--coming home from the town
when I preceded you across the yard."

"Indeed?"  she said with apparent indifference, and as she leaned against
the cold metal door-panels she looked back into the garden and thought
she was now free to return.  She would describe to the freedman the way
he must now go--it was quite simple; but she had not had time to do so
when, from a room dividing the viridarium from the vestibule she heard
first a woman's shrill voice; then the deeper tones of a man; and hardly
had they exchanged a few sentences, when every sound was lost in the
furious barking of the hound, and immediately after a loud shriek of pain
from a woman fell upon her ear, and the noise of a heavy object falling
to the ground.

What had happened?  It must be something portentous and terrible; of that
there could be no doubt; and ere long Paula's fears were justified.  Out
from the room where the scene had taken place rushed Orion, and with him
the dog, across the grass-plot which was usually respected and cherished
as holy ground, towards the side of the house facing the river, which was
where he and all the family had their rooms.

"Now!"  cried Paula, quickly leading the way.

She flew in breathless haste through the first room and into the
unguarded hall; but she had not reached the middle of it when she gave a
scream, for before her in the moonlight, lay a body, motionless, at full
length, on the hard, marble floor.

"Run, Hiram, fly !"  she cried to her companion.  "The door is ajar--
open--I can see it is."

She fell on her knees by the side of the lifeless form, raised the head,
and saw--the beautiful, deathlike face of the crazy Persian slave.  She
felt her hand wet with the blood that had soaked the hapless girl's
thick, fair hair, and she shuddered; but she resisted her impulse of
horror and loathing, and perceiving some dark stains on the torn peplos
she pulled it aside and saw that the white bosom was bleeding from deep
wounds made in the tender flesh by the cruel fangs of the hound.

Paula's heart thrilled with indignation, grief and pity.  He--he whom she
had only yesterday held to be the epitome of every manly perfection--
Orion, was guilty of so foul a deed!  He, of whose unflinching, dauntless
courage she had heard so much, had fled like a coward, and had left the
victim to her fate--twice a victim to him!

But something must be done besides lamenting and raging, and wondering
how in one human soul there could be room for so much that was noble and
fine with so much that was shameful and cruel.  She must save the girl,
she must seek help, for Mandane's bosom still faintly rose and fell under
Paula's tremulous fingers.

The freedman's brave heart would not allow him to fly to leave her with
the injured girl; he flung his shoes on the floor, raised the senseless
form, and propped it against one of the columns that stood round the
hall.  It was not till his mistress had repeated her orders that he
hurried away.  Paula watched him depart; as soon as she heard the heavy
door of the atrium close upon him, heedless of her own suspicious-looking
position, she shouted for help, so loudly that her cries rang through the
nocturnal silence of the house, and in a few minutes, from this side and
that, a slave, a maid, a clerk, a cook, a watchman, came hurrying in.

Foremost of all--so soon indeed that he must have been on his way when he
heard her cry--came Orion.  He wore a light night-dress, intended, so she
said to herself, to give the wretch the appearance of having sprung out
of bed.  But was this indeed he?  Was this man with a flushed face,
staring eyes, disordered hair and hoarse voice, that favorite of fortune
whose happy nature, easy demeanor, sunny gaze and enchanting song had
bewitched her soul?  His hand shook as he came close to her and the
injured slave; and how forced and embarrassed was his enquiry as to what
had happened; how scared he looked as he asked her what had brought her
into this part of the house at such an hour.

She made no reply; but when his mother repeated the question soon after,
in a sharp voice, she--she who had never in her life told a lie--said
with hasty decision: "I could not sleep, and the bark of the dog and a
cry for help brought me here."

"I call that having sharp ears!"  retorted Neforis with an incredulous
shrug.  "For the future, at any rate, under similar circumstances you
need not be so prompt.  How long, pray, have young girls trusted
themselves alone when murder is cried?"

"If you had but armed yourself, fair daughter of heroes!"  added Orion;
but he had no sooner spoken than he bitterly regretted it.  What a glance
Paula cast at him!  It was more than she could bear to hear him address
her in jest, almost in mockery: him of all men, and at this moment for
the first time--and to be thus reminded of her father!  She answered
proudly and with cutting sharpness: "I leave weapons to fighting men and
murderers!"

"To fighting men, and murderers!"  repeated Orion, pretending not to
understand the point of her words.  He forced a smile; but then, feeling
that he must make some defence, he added bitterly: "Really, that sounds
like the utterance of a feeble-hearted damsel!  But let me beg you to
come closer and be calm.  These pitiable gashes on the poor creature's
shoulder--I care more about her than you do, take my word for it--were
inflicted by a four-footed assassin, whose weapons were given by nature.
Yes, that is what happened.  Rough old Beki keeps watch at the door of
the tablinum.  What brought the poor child here I know not, but he caught
scent of her and pulled her down."

"Or nothing of the kind!"  interrupted Neforis, picking up a pair of
man's shoes which lay on the ground by the sufferer.

Orion turned as pale as death and hastily took the shoes from his
mother's hand; he would have liked to fling them up and away through the
open roof.  How came they here?  Whose were they?  Who had been here this
night?  Before going into the tablinum he had locked the outer door on
that side, and had returned subsequently to open it again for the people
in the court-yard.  It was not till after he had done this that the crazy
girl had rushed upon him; she must have been lurking somewhere about when
he first went through the atrium but had not then found courage enough to
place herself in his way.  When she had thrown herself upon him, the dog
had pulled her down before he could prevent it: he would certainly have
sprung past her and have come to the rescue but that he must thus have
betrayed his visit to the tablinum.

It had required all his presence of mind to hurry to his room, fling on
his night garments, and rush back to the scene of disaster.  When Paula
had first called for help he was already on his way, and with what
feelings!  Never had he felt so bewildered, so confused, so deeply
dissatisfied with himself; for the first time in his life, as he stood
face to face with Paula, he dared not look straight into the eyes of his
fellow-man.

And now these shoes!  The owner must have come there with the crazy girl,
and if he had seen him in the tablinum and betrayed what he was doing
there, how could he ever again appear in his parents' presence?  He had
looked upon it as a good joke, but now it had turned to bitter earnest.
At any cost he must and would prevent his nocturnal doings from becoming
known!  Some new wrong-doing-nay, the worst was  preferable to a stain on
his honor.--Whose could the shoes be?  He suddenly held them up on high,
crying with a loud voice: "Do these shoes belong to any of you, you
people?  To the gate-keeper perhaps?"

When all were silent, and the porter denied the ownership, he stood
thinking; then he added with a defiant glare, and in a husky voice:
"Then some one who had broken into the house has been startled and
dropped them.  Our house-stamp is here on the leather: they were made in
our work-shop, and they still smell of the stable-here, Sebek, you can
convince yourself.  Take them into your keeping, man; and tomorrow
morning we will see who has left this suspicious offering in our
vestibule.--You were the first to reach the spot, fair Paula.  Did you
see a man about?"

"Yes," she replied with a hostile and challenging stare.

"And which way did he go?"

"He fled across the viridarium like a coward, running across the poor,
well-kept grass-plot to save time, and vanished upstairs in the dwelling-
rooms."

Orion ground his teeth, and a mad hatred surged up in him of this mystery
in woman's form in whose power, as it seemed, his ruin lay, and whose
eyes mashed with revenge and the desire to undo him.  What was she
plotting against him?  Was there a being on earth who would dare to
accuse him, the spoilt favorite of great and small....?  And her look had
meant more than aversion, it had expressed contempt....  How dare she
look so at him?  Who in the wide world had a right to accuse him of
anything that could justify such a feeling?  Never, never had he met with
enmity like this, least of all from a girl.  He longed to annihilate the
high-handed, cold-hearted, ungrateful creature who could humble him so
outrageously after he had allowed her to see that his heart was hers, and
who could make him quail--a man whose courage had been proved a hundred
times.  He had to exercise his utmost self-control not to forget that she
was a woman.--What had happened?  What demon had been playing tricks on
him--What had so completely altered him within this half-hour that his
whole being seemed subverted even to himself, and that any one dared to
treat him so?

His mother at once observed the terrible change that came over her son's
face when Paula declared that a man had fled towards the dwelling-rooms;
but she accounted for it in her own way, and exclaimed in genuine alarm:
"Towards the Nile-wing, the rooms where your father sleeps?  Merciful
Heaven! suppose they have planned an attack there!  Run--fly, Sebek.

"Go across with some armed men!  Search the whole house from top to
bottom!  Perhaps you will catch the rascal--he had trodden down the
grass--you must find him--you must not let him escape."

The steward hurried off, but Paula begged the head gardener, who had come
in with the rest, to compare the foot-prints of the fugitive, which must.
yet be visible on the damp grass, with the shoes; her heart beat wildly,
and again she tried to catch the young man's eye.  Orion, however,
started forward and went into the viridarium, saying as he went: "That is
my concern."

But he was ashamed of himself, and felt as if something tight was
throttling him.  In his own eyes he appeared like a thief caught in the
act, a traitor, a contemptible rascal; and he began to perceive that he
was indeed no longer what he had been before he had committed that fatal
deed in the tablinum.

Paula breathed hard as she watched him go out.  Had he sunk so low as to
falsify the evidence, and to declare that the groom's broad sole fitted
the tracks of his small and shapely feet?  She hated him, and yet she
could have found it in her heart to pray that this, at least, he might
not do; and when he came back and said in some confusion that he could
not be sure, that the shoes did not seem exactly to fit the foot-marks,
she drew a breath of relief and turned again to the wounded girl and the
physician, who, had now made his appearance.  Before Neforis followed her
example she drew Orion aside and anxiously asked him what ailed him, he
looked so pale and upset.  He only said with some hesitation: "That poor
girl's fate. . . ." and he pointed to the Persian slave.--"It troubles
me."

"You are so soft-hearted--you were as a boy!"  said his mother
soothingly.  She had seen the moisture sparkling in his eyes; but his
tears were not for the Persian, but for the mysterious something--he
himself knew not what to call it--that he had forfeited in this last
hour, and of which the loss gave him unspeakable pain.

But their dialogue was interrupted: the first misfortune of this luckless
night had brought its attendant: the body of Rustem, the splendid and
radiantly youthful Rustem, the faithful Persian leader of the caravan,
was borne into the hall, senseless.  He had made some satirical remark on
the quarrel over creeds, and a furious Jacobite had fallen upon him with
a log of wood, and dealt him a deep and perhaps mortal wound.  The leech
at once gave him his care, and several of the crowd of muttering and
whispering men, who had made their way in out of curiosity or with a wish
to be of use, now hurried hither and thither in obedience to the
physician's orders.

As soon as he saw the Masdakite's wound he exclaimed angrily:

"A true Egyptian blow, dealt from behind!--What does this mob want here?
Out with every man who does not belong to the place!  The first things
needed are litters.  Will you, Dame Neforis, desire that two rooms may be
got ready; one for that poor, gentle creature, and one for this fine
fellow, though all will soon be over with him, short of a miracle."

"To the north of the viridarium," replied the lady, "there are two rooms
at your service."

"Not there!"  cried the leech.  "I must have rooms with plenty of fresh
air, looking out upon the river."

"There are none but the handsome rooms in the visitor's quarters, where
my husband's niece has hers, Sick persons of the family have often lain
there, but for such humble folk--you understand?"

"No--I am deaf," replied the physician.

"Oh, I know that," laughed Neforis.  "But those rooms are really just
refurnished for exalted guests."

"It would be hard to find any more exalted than such as these, sick unto
death," replied Philippus.  "They are nearer to God in Heaven than you
are; to your advantage I believe.  Here, you people!  Carry these poor
souls up to the guests' rooms."



CHAPTER IX.

"It is impossible, impossible, impossible!"  cried Orion, jumping up from
his writing-table.  He thought of what he had done as a misfortune, and
not as a crime; he himself hardly knew how it had all come about.  Yes,
there must be demons, evil, spiteful demons--and it was they who had led
him to so mad a deed.

Yesterday evening, after the buying of the hanging, he had yielded to his
mother's request that he should escort the widow Susannah home.  At her
house he had met her husband's brother, a jovial old fellow named
Chrysippus; and when the conversation turned on the tapestry, and the
Mukaukas' purpose of dedicating this work of art with all the gems worked
into it, to the Church, the old man had clasped his hands, fully sharing
Orion's disapproval, and had exclaimed laughing "What, you the son, and
is not even a part of the precious stones to fall to your share?  Why
Katharina?  Just a little diamond, a tiny opal might well add to the
earthly happiness of the young, though the old must lay up treasure in
heaven.--Do not be a fool!  The Church's maw is full enough, and really
a mouthful is your due."

And then they drank a good deal of fine wine, till at last the older man
had accompanied Orion home, to stretch his limbs in the cool night air.
A litter was carried behind him for him to return in, and all the way he
had continued to persuade the youth to induce his father not to fling the
whole treasure into the jaws of the Church, but to spare him a few stones
at least for a more pleasing use.  They had laughed over it a good deal,
and Orion in his heart had thought Chrysippus very right, and had
remembered Heliodora, and her love of large, handsome gems, and the
keepsake he owed her.  But that neither his father nor his mother would
remove a single stone, and that the whole hanging would be dedicated, was
beyond a doubt; at the same time, some of this superfluous splendor was
in fact his due as their son, and a prettier gift to Heliodora than the
large emerald could not be imagined.  Yes--and she should have it!  How
delighted she would be!  He even thought of the chief idea for the verses
to accompany the gift.

He had the key of the tablinum, in which the work was lying, about his
person; and when, on his return, he found the servants still sitting
round the fire, he shut the door of the out-buildings while a feeling
came over him which he remembered having experienced last on occasions
when he and his brothers had robbed a forbidden fruit-tree.  He was on
the point of giving up his mad project; and when, in the tablinum itself,
a horrible inward tremor again came over him he had actually turned to
retreat--but he remembered old Chrysippus and his prompts.  To turn and
fly now would be cowardice.  Heliodora must have the large emerald, and
with his verses; his father might give away all the rest as he pleased.
When he was kneeling in front of the work with his knife in his hand,
that sickening terror had come over him for the third time; if the large
emerald had not come off into his hand at the first effort he would
certainly have rolled the bale up again and have left the tablinum clean-
handed.  But the evil demon had been at his elbow, had thrust the gem
into his hand, as it were, so that two cuts with the knife had sufficed
to displace it from its setting.  It rolled into his hand and he felt its
noble weight; he cast aside all care, and had thought no more with
anything but pleasure of this splendid trick, which he would relate
to-morrow to old Chrysippus--of course under seal of secrecy.

But now, in the sober light of day, how different did this mad, rash deed
appear; how heavily had he already been punished; what consequences might
it not entail?  His hatred of Paula grew every minute: she had certainly
seen all that had happened and would not hesitate to betray him--that she
had shown last night.  War, as it were, was declared between them, and he
vowed to himself, with fire in his eyes, that he would not shirk it!  At
the same time he could not deny that she had never looked handsomer than
when she stood, with hair half undone, confronting him--threatening him.
"It is to be love or hate between us."  he muttered to himself.
"No half-measures: and she has chosen hate!  Good!  Hitherto I have only
had to fight against men; but this bold, hard, and scornful maiden, who
rejects every gentle feeling, is no despicable foe.  She has me at bay.
If she does her worst by me I will return it in kind!--And who is the
owner of the shoes?  I have taken all possible means to find him.
Shameful, shameful! that I cannot hold up my head to look boldly at my
own face in the glass.  Heliodora is a sweet creature, an angel of
kindness.  She loved me truly; but this--this--Ah; even for her, this is
too great a sacrifice!"

He pressed his hand to his brow and flung himself on a divan.  He might
well be weary, for he had not closed his eyes for more than thirty hours
and had already done much business that morning.  He had given orders to
Sebek the house-steward and to the captain of the Egyptian guard to hunt
out the owner of the sandals by the aid of the dogs, and to cast him into
prison; next he had of his own accord--since his father generally did not
fall asleep till the morning and had not yet left his room--tried to
pacify the Arab merchant with regard to the mishap that had befallen his
head man under the governor's roof; but with small success.

Finally the young man had indulged his desire to compose a few lines
addressed to the fair Heliodora--for there was no form of physical or
mental effort to which he was not trained.  He had not lost the idea that
had occurred to him yesterday before his theft in the tablinum, and to
put it into verse was in his present mood an easy task.  He wrote as
follows:

     "'Like liketh like' saith the saw; and like to like is but fitting.
     Yet, in the hardest of gems thy soft nature rejoices?
     Nay, but if noble and rare, if its beauty is priceless,
     Then, Heliodora, the stone is like thee--akin to thy beauty.
     Thus let this emerald please thee;--and know that the fire
     That fills it with light burns more fierce in the heart of thy
                                                            Friend."

He penned the lines rapidly; and as he did so he felt, he knew not why,
an excited thrill, as though every word he threw off was a blow aimed at
Paula.  Last night he had intended to send the costly jewel to the
handsome widow in a suitable setting; but now it would be madly imprudent
to order such a thing.  He must send it away at once; he had hastened to
pack it up with the verses, with his own hand, and entrusted it to
Chusar, a horsedealer's groom from Constantinople, who had brought his
Pannonian steeds to Memphis.  He had himself seen off this trustworthy
messenger, who could speak no Egyptian and very little Greek, and when
his horse was lost to sight in the dust of the road leading to Alexandria
he had returned home in a calmer mood.  Ships were constantly putting to
sea from that port for Constantinople, and Chusar was enjoined to sail by
the first that should be leaving.  At least the odious deed should not
have been committed in vain; and yet he would have given a year of his
life if now he could but know that it had never been done.

"Impossible!"  and "Curse it!"  were the words he had most frequently
repeated in the course of his retrospect during the past night and
morning.  How he had had to rush and hurry under the broiling sun! and
the sense of being compelled to do so for mere concealment's sake seemed
to him--who had never in his life before done anything that he could not
justify in the eyes of honest men--so humiliating, that it brought the
sweat to his burning brow.  He--Orion--to dread discovery as a thief!
It was inconceivable, and he was afraid, positively afraid for the first
time since his boyhood.  His fortunate star, which in the Capital had
shone on him so brightly and benevolently, seemed to have proved
faithless in this ruinous hole!  What had that Persian girl taken into
her crazy head that she must rush upon him like some furious beast of
prey?  He had been bound to her once, no doubt, by a transient passion--
and what youth of his age was blind to the charms of a pretty slave-girl?
She had been a lovely child, and it was a vexation, nay a grief to him,
that she should have been so shamefully punished.  If she should recover,
and he could have prayed that she might, it would of course be his part
to provide for her--of course.  To be just, he could not but confess that
she indeed had good reason to hate him: but Paula?  He had shown her
nothing but kindness and yet how unhesitatingly, how openly she had
displayed her enmity.  He could see her now with the name "murderer" on
her quivering lips; the word had stung him like a lance-thrust.  What a
hideous, degrading and unjust accusation lay in that exclamation!  Should
he submit to it unrevenged?

Was she as innocent as she was haughty and cold?  What was she doing in
the viridarium at midnight?--For she must have been there before that
ill-starred dog flew at Mandane.  An assignation with the owner of the
shoes his mother had found was out of the question, for they belonged to
some man about the stables.  Love, thought he, for a wonder had nothing
to do with it; but as he came in he had noticed a man crossing the court-
yard who looked like Paula's freedman, Hiram the trainer.  Probably she
had arranged a meeting with her stammering friend in order--in order?--
Well, there was but one thing that seemed likely: She was plotting to fly
from his parents' house and needed this man's assistance.

He had seen within a few hours of his return that his mother did not make
life sweet to the girl, and yet his father had very possibly opposed her
wish to seek another home.  But why should she avoid and hate him?  In
that expedition on the river and on their way home he could have sworn
that she loved him, and the remembrance of those hours brought her near
to him again, and wiped out his schemes of vengeance against her, of
punishment to be visited on her.  Then he thought of little Katharina
whom his mother intended him to marry, and at the thought he laughed
softly to himself.  In the Imperial gardens at Constantinople he had once
seen a strange Indian bird, with a tiny body and head and an immensely
long tail, shining like silver and mother of pearl.  This was Katharina!
She herself a mere nothing; but then her tail! vast estates and immense
sums of money; and this--this was all his mother saw.  But did he need
more than he had?  How rich his father must be to spend so large a sum
on an offering to the Church as heedlessly as men give alms to a beggar.

Katharina--and Paula!

Yes, the little girl was a bright, brisk creature; but then Thomas'
daughter--what power there was in her eye, what majesty in her gait,
how--how--how enchanting her--her voice could be--her voice....

He was asleep, worn out by heat and fatigue; and in a dream he saw Paula
lying on a couch strewn with roses while all about her sounded wonderful
heart-ensnaring music; and the couch was not solid but blue water, gently
moving: he went towards her and suddenly a large black eagle swooped down
on him, flapped his wings in his face and when, half-blinded, he put his
hand to his eyes the bird pecked the roses as a hen picks millet and
barley.  Then he was angry, rushed at the eagle, and tried to clutch him
with his hands; but his feet seemed rooted to the ground, and the more he
struggled to move freely the more firmly he was dragged backwards.  He
fought like a madman against the hindering force, and suddenly it
released him.  He was still under this impression when he woke, streaming
with perspiration, and opened his eyes.  By his couch stood his mother
who had laid her hand on his feet to rouse him.

She looked pale and anxious and begged him to come quickly to his father
who was much disturbed, and wished to speak with him.  Then she hurried
away.

While he hastily arranged his hair and had his shoes clasped he felt
vexed that, under the influence of that foolish dream, and still half
asleep, he had let his mother go before ascertaining what the
circumstances were that had given rise to his father's anxiety.  Had it
anything to do with the incidents of the past night?  No.--If he had been
suspected his mother would have told him and warned him.  It must refer
to something else.  Perhaps the old merchant's stalwart headman had died
of his wounds, and his father wished to send him--Orion--across the Nile
to the Arab viceroy to obtain forgiveness for the murder of a Moslem,
actually within the precincts of the governor's house.  This fatal blow
might indeed entail serious consequences; however, the matter might very
likely be quite other than this.

When he left his room the brooding heat that filled the house struck him
as peculiarly oppressive, and a painful feeling, closely resembling
shame, stole over him as he crossed the viridarium, and glanced at the
grass from which--thanks to Paula's ill-meant warning--he had carefully
brushed away his foot-marks before daybreak.  How cowardly, how base,
it all was The best of all in life: honor, self-respect, the proud
consciousness of being an honest man--all staked and all lost for nothing
at all!  He could have slapped his own face or cried aloud like a child
that has broken its most treasured toy.  But of what use was all this?
What was done could not be undone; and now he must keep his wits about
him so as to remain, in the eyes of others at least, what he had always
been, low as he had fallen in his own.

It was scorchingly hot in the enclosed garden-plot, surrounded by
buildings, and open to the sun; not a human creature was in sight; the
house seemed dead.  The gaudy flag-staffs and trellis-work, and the
pillars of the verandah, which had all been newly painted in honor of his
return and were still wreathed with garlands, exhaled a smell, to him
quite sickening, of melting resin, drying varnish and faded flowers.
Though there was no breath of air the atmosphere quivered, as it seemed
from the fierce rays of the sun, which were reflected like arrows from
everything around him.  The butterflies and dragonflies appeared to Orion
to move their wings more languidly as they hovered over the plants and
flowers, the very fountain danced up more lazily and not so high as
usual: everything about him was hot, sweltering, oppressive; and the man
who had always been so independent and looked up to, who for years had
been free to career through life uncontrolled, and guarded by every good
Genius now felt trammelled, hemmed in and harassed.

In his father's cool fountain-room he could breathe more freely; but only
for a moment.  The blood faded from his cheeks, and he had to make a
strong effort to greet his father calmly and in his usual manner; for in
front of the divan where the governor commonly reclined, lay the Persian
hanging, and close by stood his mother and the Arab merchant.  Sebek, the
steward awaited his master's orders, in the background in the attitude of
humility which was torture to his old back, but in which he was never
required to remain:  Orion now signed to him to stand up:

The Arab's mild features wore a look of extreme gravity, and deep
vexation could be read in his kindly eyes.  As the young man entered he
bowed slightly; they had already met that morning.  The Mukaukas, who was
lying deathly pale with colorless lips, scarcely opened his eyes at his
son's greeting.  It might have been thought that a bier was waiting in
the next room and that the mourners had assembled here.

The piece of work was only half unrolled, but Orion at once saw the spot
whence its crowning glory was now missing--the large emerald which, as he
alone could know, was on its way to Constantinople.  His theft had been
discovered.  How fearful, how fatal might the issue be!

"Courage, courage!"  he said to himself.  "Only preserve your presence
of mind.  What profit is life with loss of honor?  Keep your eyes open;
everything depends on that, Orion!"

He succeeded in hastily collecting his thoughts, and exclaimed in a voice
which lacked little of its usual eager cheerfulness:

"How dismal you all look!  It is indeed a terrible disaster that the dog
should have handled the poor girl so roughly, and that our people should
have behaved so outrageously; but, as I told you this morning, worthy
Merchant, the guilty parties shall pay for it with their lives.  My
father, I am sure, will agree that you should deal with them according to
your pleasure, and our leech Philippus, in spite of his youth, is a
perfect Hippocrates I can assure you!  He will patch up the fine fellow--
your head-man I mean, and as to any question of compensation, my father
--well, you know he is no haggler."

"I beg you not to add insult to the injury that I have suffered under
your roof," interrupted Haschim.  "No amount of money can buy off my
wrath over the spilt blood of a friend--and Rustem was my friend--a free
and valiant youth.  As to the punishment of the guilty: on that I insist.
Blood cries for blood.  That is our creed; and though yours, to be sure,
enjoins the contrary, so far as I know you act by the same rule as we.
All honor to your physician; but it goes to my heart, and raises my gall
to see such things take place in the house of the man to whom the Khaliff
has confided the weal or woe of Egyptian Christians.  Your boasted
tolerance has led to the death of an honest though humble man in a time
of perfect peace--or at least maimed him for life.  As to your honesty,
it would seem.  .  ."

"Who dares impugn it?"  cried Orion.

"I, young man," replied the merchant with the calm dignity of age.
"I, who sold this piece of work last evening, and find it this morning
robbed of its most precious ornament."

"The great emerald has been cut from the hanging during the night."  Dame
Neforis explained.  "You yourself went with the man who carried it to the
tablinum and saw it laid there."

"And in the very cloth in which your people had wrapped it," added Orion.
"Our good old Sebek there was with me.  Who fetched away the bale this
morning; who brought it here and opened it?"

"Happily for us," said the Arab, "it was your lady mother herself, with
that man--your steward if I mistake not--and your own slaves."

"Why was it not left where it was?"  asked Orion, giving vent to the
annoyance which at this moment he really felt.

"Because I had assured your father, and with good reason, that the beauty
of this splendid work and of the gems that decorate it show to much
greater advantage by daylight and in the sunshine than under the lamps
and torches."

"And besides, your father wished to see his new purchase once more,"
Neforis broke in, "and to ask the merchant how the gems might be removed
without injury to the work itself.  So I went to the tablinum myself with
Sebek."

"But I had the key!"  cried Orion putting his hand into the breast of his
robe.

"That I had forgotten," replied his mother.  "But unfortunately we did
not need it.  The tablinum was open."

"I locked it yesterday;  you saw me do it, Sebek.  .  ."

"So I told the mistress," replied the steward.  "I perfectly recollect
hearing the snap of the strong lock."

Orion shrugged his shoulders, and his mother went on:

But the bronze doors must have been opened during the night with a false
key, or by some other means; for part of the hanging had been pulled out
of the wrapper, and when we looked closely we saw that the large emerald
had been wrenched out of the setting."

"Shameful!"  exclaimed Orion.

"Disgraceful!"  added the governor, vehemently starting up.  He had
fallen a prey to fearful unrest and horror: he thought that his Lord and
Saviour, to whom he had dedicated the precious jewel, regarded him as so
sinful and worthless that He would not accept the gift at his hands.
But perhaps it was only Satan striving to hinder him from approaching the
Most High with so noble an offering.  At any rate, human cunning had been
at work, so he said with stern resolution:

"The matter shall be enquired into, and in the name of Jesus Christ, to
whom the stone already belongs, I will never rest nor cease till the
criminal is in my hands."

"And in the name of Allah and the Prophet," added the Arab, "I will aid
thee, if I have to appeal for help to the great chief Amru, the Khaliff's
representative in this country.--A word was spoken here just now that I
cannot and will not forget.  And the tone you have chosen to adopt, young
man, seems to spring from the same fount: the old fox, you think, put a
false gem of impossible size into the hanging, and has had it stolen that
his fraud may not be detected when a jeweller examines the work by
daylight.  This is too much!  I am an honest man, Sirs, and I am fain to
add a rich one; and the man who tries to cast a stain on the character I
have borne through a long life shall learn, to his ruing, that old
Haschim has greater and more powerful friends to back him than you may
care to meet!"

As he uttered this threat the merchant's eyes glistened through tears; it
grieved him to be unjustly suspected and to be forced to express himself
so hardly to the Mukaukas for whom he felt both reverence and pity.  It
was clear from the tone of his speech that he was in fact a determined
and a powerful personage, and Orion interrupted him with the eager
enquiry: "Who has dared to think so basely of you?"

"Your own mother, I regret to say," replied the Moslem sadly, with an
oriental shrug of distress and annoyance--his shoulders up to his ears.

"Forget it, I beg of you," said the governor.  "God knows women have
softer hearts than men, and yet they more readily incline to think evil
of their fellow-creatures, and particularly of the enemies of their
faith.  On the other hand they are more sensitive to kindness.  A woman's
hair is long and her wits short, says the saw."

"You have plenty to say against us women!"  retorted Neforis.  "But scold
away--scold if it is a comfort to you!"  But she added, while she
affectionately turned her husband's pillows and gave him another of his
white pillules: "I will submit to the worst to-day for I am in the wrong.
I have already asked your pardon, worthy Haschim, and I do so again, with
all my heart."

As she spoke, she went up to the Arab and held out her hand; he took it,
but lightly, however, and quickly released it, saying:

"I do not find it hard to forgive.  But I find it impossible, here or
anywhere, to let so much as a grain of dust rest on my bright good name.
I shall follow up this affair, turning neither to the right hand nor to
the left.--And now, one question: Is the dog that guarded the tablinum a
watchful, savage beast?"

"How savage he is he unfortunately proved on the person of the poor
Persian slave; and his watchfulness is known to all the household," cried
Orion.

"But I would beg you, worthy merchant," said Neforis, "and in the name
of all present, to give us the help of your experience.  I myself--wait
a little wait: in spite of her long hair and her short wits a woman often
has a happy idea.  I, probably, was the first to come on the robber's
track.  It is clear that he must belong to the household since the dog
did not attack him.  Paula, who was so wonderfully quick in coming to the
rescue of the Persian, is of course not to be thought of.  .  ."

Here her husband interrupted her with an angry exclamation: "Leave the
girl quite out of the question wife!"

"As if I supposed her to be the thief!"  retorted Neforis indignantly,
and she shrugged her shoulders as Orion, in mild reproach, also cried:
"Mother!  consider.  .  .  ."  and the merchant asked:

"Do you mean the young girl from whom I had to take such hard words last
night?--Well, then, I will stake my whole fortune on her innocence.  That
beautiful, passionate creature is incapable of any underhand dealings."

"Passionate!"  Neforis smiled.  "Her heart is as cold and as hard as the
lost emerald; we have proved that by experience."

"Nevertheless," said Orion, "she is incapable of baseness."

"How zealous men can be for a pair of fine eyes!"  interrupted his
mother.  "But I have not the most remote suspicion of her; I have
something quite different in my mind.  A pair of man's shoes were found
lying by the wounded girl.  Did you do what my lord Orion ordered,
Sebek?"

"At once, Mistress," replied the steward, "and I have been expecting the
captain of the watch for some time; for Psamtik. . . ."

But here he was interrupted: the officer in question, who for more than
twenty years had commanded the Mukaukas' guard of honor, was shown into
the room; after answering a few preliminary enquiries he began his report
in a voice so loud that it hurt the governor, and his wife was obliged to
request the soldier to speak more gently.

The bloodhounds and terriers had been let out after being allowed to
smell at the shoes, and a couple of them had soon found their way to the
side-door where Hiram had waited for Paula.  There they paused, sniffing
about on all sides, and had then jumped up a few steps.

"And those stairs lead to Paula's room," observed Neforis with a shrug.

"But they were on a false scent," the officer eagerly added.  "The little
toads might have thrown suspicion on an innocent person.  The curs
immediately after rushed into the stables, and ran up and down like Satan
after a lost soul.  The pack had soon pulled down the boy--the son of the
freedman who came here from Damascus with the daughter of the great
Thomas--and they went quite mad in his father's room: Heaven and earth!
what a howling and barking and yelping.  They poked their noses into
every old rag, and now we knew where the hole in the wine-skin was.--
I am sorry for the man.  He stammered horribly, but as a trainer, and in
all that has to do with horses, all honor to him!--The shoes are Hiram's
as surely as my eyes are in my head; but we have not caught him yet.  He
is across the river, for a boat is missing and where it had been lying
the dogs began again.  Unless the unbelievers over there give him shelter
we are certain to have him."

"Then we know who is the criminal!"  cried Orion, with a sigh as deep as
though some great burden were lifted from his soul.  Then he went on in a
commanding tone--and his voice rang so fiercely that the color which had
mounted to his cheeks could hardly be due to satisfaction at this last
good news....

"As it is not yet two hours after noon, send all your men out to search
for him and deliver him up.  My father will give you a warrant, and the
Arabs on the other shore will assist you.  Perhaps the thief may fall
into our hands even sooner and with him the emerald, unless the rogue has
succeeded in hiding it or selling it."  Then his voice sank, and he added
in a tone of regret.  It is a pity as concerns the man, we had not one in
our stables who knew more about horses!  Fresh proof of your maxim,
mother: if you want to be well served you must buy rascals!"

"Strictly speaking," said Neforis meditatively, "Hiram is not one of our
people.  He was a freedman of Thomas' and came here with his daughter.
Every one speaks highly of his skill in the stable; but for this robbery
we might have kept him for the rest of his life still, if the girl had
ever taken it into her head to leave us and to take him with her, we
could not have detained him.--You may say what you will, and abuse me and
mock me; I have none of what you call imagination; I see things simply as
they are: but there must be some understanding between that girl and the
thief."

"You are not to say another word of such monstrous nonsense!"  exclaimed
her husband; and he would have said more, but that at that moment the
groom of the chambers announced that Gamaliel, the Jewish goldsmith,
begged an audience.  The man had come to give information with regard to
the fate of the lost emerald.

At this statement Orion changed color, and he turned away from the
merchant as the slave admitted the same Israelite who had been sitting
over the fire with the head-servants.  He at once plunged into his story,
telling it in his peculiar light-hearted style.  He was so rich that the
loss he might suffer did not trouble him enough to spoil his good-humor,
and so honest that it was a pleasure to him to restore the stolen
property to its rightful owner.  Early that morning, so he told them,
Hiram the groom had been to him to offer him a wonderfully large and
splendid emerald for sale.  The freedman had assured him that the stone
was part of the property left by the famous Thomas, his former master.
It had decorated the head-stall of the horse which the hero of Damascus
had last ridden, and it had come to him with the steed.

"I offered him what I thought fair," the Jew went on, "and paid him two
thousand drachmae on account; the remainder he begged me to take charge
of for the present.  To this I agreed, but ere long a fly began to hum
suspicion in my ear.  Then the police rushed through the town with the
bloodhounds.  Good Heavens, what a barking!  The creatures yelped as if
they would bark my poor house down, like the trumpets round the walls of
Jericho--you know.  'What is the matter now,' I asked of the dog-keepers,
and behold!  my suspicions about the emerald were justified; so here, my
lord Governor, I have brought you the stone, and as every suckling in
Memphis hears from its nurse--unless it is deaf--what a just man Mukaukas
George is, you will no doubt make good to me what I advanced to that
stammering scoundrel.  And you will have the best of the bargain, noble
Sir; for I make no demand for interest or even maintenance for the two
hours during which it was mine."

"Give me the stone !"  interrupted the Arab, who was annoyed by the Jew's
jesting tone; he snatched the emerald from him, weighed it in his hand,
put it close to his eyes, held it far off, tapped it with a small hammer
that he took out of his breast-pocket, slipped it into its place in the
work, examining it keenly, suspiciously, and at last with satisfaction.
During all this, Orion had more than once turned pale, and the sweat
broke out on his handsome, pale face.  Had a miracle been wrought here?
How could this gem, which was surely on its way to Alexandria, have found
its way into the Jew's hands?  Or could Chusar have opened the little
packet and have sold the emerald to Hiram, and through him to the
jeweller?  He must get to the bottom of it, and while the Arab was
examining the gem he went up to Gamaliel and asked him: "Are you
positively certain--it is a matter of freedom or the dungeon--certain
that you had this stone from Hiram the Syrian and from no one else?
I mean, is the man so well-known to you that no mistake is possible?"

"God preserve us!"  exclaimed the Jew drawing back a step from Orion,
who was gazing at him with a sinister light in his eyes.  "How can my
lord doubt it?  Your respected father has known me these thirty years,
and do you suppose that I--I do not know the Syrian?  Why, who in Memphis
can stammer to compare with him?  And has he not killed half my children
with your wild young horses?--Half killed every one of my children I mean
--half killed them, I say, with fright.  They are all still alive and
well, God preserve them, but none the better for your horsebreaker; for
fresh air is good for children and my little Rebecca would stop indoors
till he was at home again for fear of his terrifying pranks."

"Well, well!"  Orion broke in.  "And at what hour did he bring you the
emerald for sale?  Exactly.  Now, recollect: when was it?  You surely
must remember."

"Adonai!  How should I?"  said the Jew.  "But wait, Sir, perhaps I may be
able to tell you.  In this hot weather we are up before sunrise; then we
said our prayers and had our morning broth; then.  .  .  ."

"Senseless chatter!"  urged Orion.  But Gamaliel went on without allowing
himself to be checked.  "Then little Ruth jumped into my lap to pull out
the white hairs that will grow under my nose and, just as the child was
doing it and I cried out:  'Oh, you hurt me!' the sun fell upon the earth
bank on which I was sitting."

"And at what time does it reach the bank?"  cried the young man.

"Exactly two hours after sunrise," replied the Jew, "at this time of
year.  Do me the honor of a visit tomorrow morning; you will not regret
it, for I can show you some beautiful, exquisite things--and you can
watch the shadow yourself."

"Two hours after sunrise," murmured Orion to himself, and then with fresh
qualms he reflected that it was fully four hours later when he had given
the packet to Chusar.  It was impossible to doubt the Jew's statement.
The man was rich, honest and content: he did not lie.  The jewel Orion
had sent away and that purchased from Hiram could not in any case be
identical.  But how could all this be explained?  It was enough to turn
his brain.  And not to dare to speak when mere silence was falsehood--
falsehood to his father and mother!--If only the hapless stammerer might
escape!  If he were caught;  then--then  merciful Heaven!  But no; it was
not to be thought of.--On, then, on; and if it came to the worst the
honor of a hundred stablemen could not outweigh that of one Orion;
horrible as it was, the man must be sacrificed.  He would see that his
life was spared and that he was soon set at liberty!

The Arab meanwhile had concluded his examination; still he was not
perfectly satisfied.  Orion longed to interpose; for if the merchant
expressed no doubts and acknowledged the recovered gem to be the stolen
one, much would be gained; so he turned to him again and said: "May I ask
you to show me the emerald once more?  It is quite impossible, do you
think, that a second should be found to match it?"

"That is too much to assert,"  said  the  Arab gravely.  "This stone
resembles that on the hanging to a hair; and yet it has a little
inequality which I do not remember noticing on it.  It is true I had
never seen it out of the setting, and this little boss may have been
turned towards the stuff, and yet, and yet.--Tell me, goldsmith, did the
thief give you the emerald bare--unset?"

"As bare as Adam and Eve before they ate the apple," said the Jew.

"That is a pity--a great pity!--And still I fancy that the stone in
the work was a trifle longer.  In such a case it is almost folly and
perversity to doubt, and yet I feel--and yet I ask myself: Is this really
the stone that formed that bud?"

"But Heaven bless us!"  cried Orion, "the twin of such an unique gem
would surely not drop from the skies and at the same moment into one and
the same house.  Let us be glad that the lost sheep has come back to us.
Now, I will lock it into this iron casket, Father, and as soon as the
robber is caught you send for me: do you understand, Psamtik?"  He nodded
to his parents, offered his hand to the Arab, and that in a way which
could not fail to satisfy any one, so that even the old man was won over;
and then he left the room.

The merchant's honor was saved; still his conscientious soul was
disturbed by a doubt that he could not away with.  He was about to take
leave but the Mukaukas was so buried in pillows, and kept his eyes so
closely shut, that no one could detect whether he were sleeping or
waking; so the Arab, not wishing to disturb him, withdrew without
speaking.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Ancient custom, to have her ears cut off
Caught the infection and had to laugh whether she would or no
Gave them a claim on your person and also on your sorrows
How could they find so much pleasure in such folly
Of two evils it is wise to choose the lesser
Prepared for the worst; then you are armed against failure
Who can hope to win love that gives none
Who can take pleasure in always seeing a gloomy face?





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bride of the Nile — Volume 02" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
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.



Home