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The Bride of the Nile
by Georg Ebers
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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?



THE BRIDE OF THE NILE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 3.



CHAPTER X.

After the great excitement of the night Paula had thrown herself on her bed with throbbing pulses. Sleep would not come to her, and so at rather more than two hours after sunrise she went to the window to close the shutters. As she did so she looked out, and she saw Hiram leap into a boat and push the light bark from the shore. She dared neither signal nor call to him; but when the faithful soul had reached open water he looked back at her window, recognized her in her white morning dress and flourished the oar high in the air. This could only mean that he had fulfilled his commission and sold her jewel. Now he was going to the other side to engage the Nabathaean.

When she had closed the shutters and darkened the room she again lay down. Youth asserted its rights the weary girl fell into deep, dreamless slumbers.

When she woke, with the heat drops on her forehead, the sun was nearly at the meridian, only an hour till the Ariston would be served, the Greek breakfast, the first meal in the morning, which the family eat together as they also did the principal meal later in the clay. She had never yet failed to appear, and her absence would excite remark.

The governor's household, like that of every Egyptian of rank, was conducted more on the Greek than the Egyptian plan; and this was the case not merely as regarded the meals but in many other things, and especially the language spoken. From the Mukaukas himself down to the youngest member of the family, all spoke Greek among themselves, and Coptic, the old native dialect, only to the servants. Nay, many borrowed and foreign words had already crept into use in the Coptic.

The governor's granddaughter, pretty little Mary, had learnt to speak Greek fluently and correctly before she spoke Coptic, but when Paula had first arrived she could not as yet write the beautiful language of Greece with due accuracy. Paula loved children; she longed for some occupation, and she had therefore volunteered to instruct the little girl in the art. At first her hosts had seemed pleased that she should render this service, but ere long the relation between the Lady Neforis and her husband's niece had taken the unpleasant aspect which it was destined to retain. She had put a stop to the lessons, and the reason she had assigned for this insulting step was that Paula had dictated to her pupil long sentences out of her Orthodox Greek prayerbook. This, it was true, she had done; but without the smallest concealment; and the passages she had chosen had contained nothing but what must elevate the soul of every Christian, of whatever confession.

The child had wept bitterly over her grandmother's fiat, though Paula had always taken the lessons quite seriously, for Mary loved her older companion with all the enthusiasm of a half-grown girl—as a child of ten really is in Egypt; her passionate little heart worshipped the beautiful maiden who was in every respect so far above her, and Paula's arms had opened wide to embrace the child who brought sunshine into the gloomy, chill atmosphere she breathed in her uncle's house. But Neforis regarded the child's ardent love for her Melchite relation as exaggerated and morbid, imperilling perhaps her religious faith; and she fancied that under Paula's influence Mary had transferred her affections from her to the younger woman with added warmth. Nor was this idea wholly fanciful; the child's strong sense of justice could not bear to see her friend misunderstood and slighted, often simply and entirely misjudged and hardly blamed, so Mary felt it her duty, as far as in her lay, to make up for her grandmother's delinquencies in regard to the guest who in the child's eyes was perfection.

But Neforis was not the woman to put up with this demeanor in a child. Mary was her granddaughter, the only child of her lost son, and no one should come between them. So she forbid the little girl to go to Paula's room without an express message, and when a Greek teacher was engaged for her, her instructions were that she should keep her pupil as much as possible out of the Syrian damsel's way. All this only fanned the child's vehement affection; and tenderly as her grandmother would sometimes caress her—while Mary on her part never failed in dutiful obedience—neither of them ever felt a true and steady warmth of heart towards the other; and for this Paula was no doubt to blame, though against her will and by her mere existence.

Often, indeed, and by a hundred covert hints Dame Neforis gave Paula to understand that she it was who had alienated her grandchild; there was nothing for it but to keep the child for whom she yearned, at a distance, and only rarely reveal to her the abundance of her love. At last her life was so full of grievance that she was hardly able to be innocent with the innocent—a child with the child; Mary was not slow to note this, and ascribed Paula's altered manner to the suffering caused by her grandmother's severity.

Mary's most frequent opportunities of speaking to her friend were just before meals; for at that time no one was watching her, and her grandmother had not forbidden her calling Paula to table. A visit to her room was the child's greatest delight—partly because it was forbidden—but no less because Paula, up in her own room, was quite different from what she seemed with the others, and because they could there look at each other and kiss without interference, and say what ever they pleased. There Mary could tell her as much as she dared of the events in their little circle, but the lively and sometimes hoydenish little girl was often withheld from confessing a misdemeanor, or even an inoffensive piece of childishness, by sheer admiration for one who to her appeared nobler, greater and loftier than other beings.

Just as Paula had finished putting up her hair, Mary, who would rush like a whirlwind even into her grandmother's presence, knocked humbly at the door. She did not fly into Paula's arms as she did into those of Susannah or her daughter Katharina, but only kissed her white arm with fervent devotion, and colored with happiness when Paula bent down to her, pressed her lips to her brow and hair, and wiped her wet, glowing cheeks. Then she took Mary's head fondly between her hands and said:

"What is wrong with you, madcap?"

In fact the sweet little face was crimson, and her eyes swelled as if she had been crying violently.

"It is so fearfully hot," said Mary. "Eudoxia"—her Greek governess—"says that Egypt in summer is a fiery furnace, a hell upon earth. She is quite ill with the heat, and lies like a fish on the sand; the only good thing about it is. . ."

"That she lets you run off and gives you no lessons?"

Mary nodded, but as no lecture followed the confession she put her head on one side and looked up into Paula's face with large roguish eyes.

"And yet you have been crying!—a great girl like you?"

"I—I crying?"

"Yes, crying. I can see it in your eyes. Now confess: what has happened?"

"You will not scold me?"

"Certainly not."

"Well then. At first it was fun, such fun you cannot think, and I do not mind the heat; but when the great hunt had gone by I wanted to go to my grand mother and I was not allowed. Do you know, something very particular had been going on in the fountain-room; and as they all came out again I crept behind Orion into the tablinum—there are such wonderful things there, and I wanted just to frighten him a little; we have often played games together before. At first he did not see me, and as he was bending over the hanging, from which the gem was stolen—I believe he was counting the stones in the faded old thing—I just jumped on to his shoulder, and he was so frightened—I can tell you, awfully frightened! And he turned upon me like a fighting-cock and—and he gave me a box on the ear; such a slap, it is burning now—and all sorts of colors danced before my eyes. He always used to be so nice and kind to me, and to you, too, and so I used to be fond of him—he is my uncle too—but a box on the ears, a slap such as the cook might give to the turnspit—I am too big for that; that I will certainly not put up with it! Since my last birthday all the slaves and upper servants, too, have had to treat me as a lady and to bow down to me! And now!—it was just here.—How dare he?" She began to cry again and sobbed out: "But that was not all. He locked me into the dark tablinum and left—left me. . . ." her tears flowed faster and faster, "left me sitting there! It was so horrible; and I might have been there now if I had not found a gold plate; I seized my great-grandfather—I mean the silver image of Menas, and hammered on it, and screamed Fire! Then Sebek heard me and fetched Orion, and he let me out, and made such a fuss over me and kissed me. But what is the good of that; my grandfather will be angry, for in my terror I beat his father's nose quite flat on the plate."

Paula had listened, now amused and now grave, to the little girl's story; when she ceased, she once more wiped her eyes and said:

"Your uncle is a man, and you must not play with him as if he were a child like yourself. The reminder you got was rather a hard one, no doubt, but Orion tried to make up for it.—But the great hunt, what was that?"

At this question Mary's eyes suddenly sparkled again. In an instant all her woes were forgotten, even her ancestor's flattened nose, and with a merry, hearty laugh she exclaimed:

"Oh! you should have seen it! You would have been amused too. They wanted to catch the bad man who cut the emerald out of the hanging. He had left his shoes and they had held them under the dogs' noses and then off they went! First they rushed here to the stairs; then to the stables, then to the lodgings of one of the horse-trainers, and I kept close behind, after the terriers and the other dogs. Then they stopped to consider and at last they all ran out at the gate towards the town. I ought not to have gone beyond the court-yard, but—do not be cross with me—it was such fun!—Out they went, along Hapi Street, across the square, and at last into the Goldsmith's Street, and there the whole pack plunged into Gamaliel's shop—the Jew who is always so merry. While he was talking to the others his wife gave me some apricot tartlets; we do not have such good ones at home."

"And did they find the man?" asked Paula, who had changed color repeatedly during the child's story.

"I do not know," said Mary sadly. "They were not chasing any one in particular. The dogs kept their noses to the ground, and we ran after them."

"And only to catch a man, who certainly had nothing whatever to do with the theft.—Reflect a little, Mary. The shoes gave the dogs the scent and they were set on to seize the man who had worn them, but whom no judge had examined. The shoes were found in the hall; perhaps he had dropped them by accident, or some one else may have carried them there. Now think of yourself in the place of an innocent man, a Christian like ourselves, hunted with a pack of dogs like a wild beast. Is it not frightful? No good heart should laugh at such a thing!"

Paula spoke with such impressive gravity and deep sorrow, and her whole manner betrayed such great and genuine distress that the child looked tip at her anxiously, with tearful eyes, threw herself against her, and hiding her face in Paula's dress exclaimed: "I did not know that they were hunting a poor man, and if it makes you so sad, I wish I had not been there! But is it really and truly so bad? You are so often unhappy when we others laugh!" She gazed into Paula's face with wide, wondering eyes through her tears, and Paula clasped her to her, kissed her fondly, and replied with melancholy sweetness:

"I would gladly be as gay as you, but I have gone through so much to sadden me. Laugh and be merry to your heart's content; I am glad you should. But with regard to the poor hunted man, I fear he is my father's freedman, the most faithful, honest soul! Did your exciting hunt drive any one out of the goldsmith's shop?"

Mary shook her head; then she asked:

"Is it Hiram, the stammerer, the trainer, that they are hunting?"

"I fear it is."

"Yes, yes," said the child. "Stay—oh, dear! it will grieve you again, but I think—I think they said—the shoes belonged—but I did not attend. However, they were talking of a groom—a freedman—a stammerer. . . ."

"Then they certainly are hunting down an innocent man," cried Paula with a deep sigh; and she sat down again in front of her toilet-table to finish dressing. Her hands still moved mechanically, but she was lost in thought; she answered the child vaguely, and let her rummage in her open trunk till Mary pulled out the necklace that had been bereft of its gem, and hung it round her neck. Just then there was a knock at the door and Katharina, the widow Susannah's little daughter, came into the room. The young girl, to whom the governor's wife wished to marry her tall son scarcely reached to Paula's shoulder, but she was plump and pleasant to look upon; as neat as if she had just been taken out of a box, with a fresh, merry lovable little face. When she laughed she showed a gleaming row of small teeth, set rather wide apart, but as white as snow; and her bright eyes beamed on the world as gladly as though they had nothing that was not pleasing to look for, innocent mischief to dream of. She too, tried to win Paula's favor; but with none of Mary's devoted and unvarying enthusiasm. Often, to be sure, she would devote herself to Paula with such stormy vehemence that the elder girl was forced to be repellent; then, on the other hand, if she fancied her self slighted, or treated more coolly than Mary, she would turn her back on Paula with sulky jealousy, temper and pouting. It always was in Paula's power to put an end to the "Water-wagtails tantrums"—which generally had their comic side—by a kind word or kiss; but without some such advances Katharina was quite capable of indulging her humors to the utmost.

On the present occasion she flew into Paula's arm, and when her friend begged, more quietly than usual that she would allow her first to finish dressing, she turned away without any display of touchiness and took the necklace from Mary's hand to put it on herself. It was of fine workmanship, set with pearls, and took her fancy greatly; only the empty medallion from which Hiram had removed the emerald with his knife spoiled the whole effect. Still, it was a princely jewel, and when she had also taken from the chest a large fan of ostrich feathers she showed off to her play-fellow, with droll, stiff dignity, how the empress and princesses at Court curtsied and bowed graciously to their inferiors. At this they both laughed a great deal. When Paula had finished her toilet and proceeded to take the necklace off Katharina, the empty setting, which Hiram's knife had bent, caught in the thin tissue of her dress. Mary disengaged it, and Paula tossed the jewel back into the trunk.

While she was locking the box she asked Katharina whether she had met Orion.

"Orion!" repeated the younger girl, in a tone which implied that she alone had the right to enquire about him. "Yes, we came upstairs together; he went to see the wounded man. Have you anything to say to him?"

She crimsoned as she spoke and looked suspiciously at Paula, who simply replied: "Perhaps," and then added, as she hung the ribbon with the key round her neck: "Now, you little girls, it is breakfast time; I am not going down to-day."

"Oh, dear!" cried Mary disappointed, "my grandfather is ailing and grandmother will stay with him; so if you do not come I shall have to sit alone with Eudoxia; for Katharina's chariot is waiting and she must go home at once. Oh! do come. Just to please me; you do not know how odious Eudoxia can be when it is so hot."

"Yes, do go down," urged Katharina. "What will you do up hereby yourself? And this evening mother and I will come again."

"Very well," said Paula. "But first I must go to see the invalids."

"May I go with you?" asked the Water wagtail, coaxingly stroking Paula's arm. But Mary clapped her hands, exclaiming:

"She only wants to go to Orion—she is so fond of him. . . ."

Katharina put her hand over the child's mouth, but Paula, with quickened breath, explained that she had very serious matters to discuss with Orion; so Katharina, turning her back on her with a hasty gesture of defiance, sulkily went down stairs, while Mary slipped down the bannister rail. Not many days since, Katharina, who was but just sixteen, would gladly have followed her example.

Paula meanwhile knocked at the first of the sickrooms and entered it as softly as the door was opened by a nursing-sister from the convent of St. Katharine. Orion, whom she was seeking, had been there, but had just left.

In this first room lay the leader of the caravan; in that beyond was the crazy Persian. In a sitting-room adjoining the first room, which, being intended for guests of distinction, was furnished with royal magnificence, sat two men in earnest conversation: the Arab merchant and Philippus the physician, a young man of little more than thirty, tall and bony, in a dress of clean but very coarse stuff without any kind of adornment. He had a shrewd, pale face, out of which a pair of bright black eyes shone benevolently but with keen vivacity. His large cheek-bones were much too prominent; the lower part of his face was small, ugly and, as it were, compressed, while his high broad forehead crowned the whole and stamped it as that of a thinker, as a fine cupola may crown an insignificant and homely structure.

This man, devoid of charm, though his strongly-characterized individuality made it difficult to overlook him even in the midst of a distinguished circle, had been conversing eagerly with the Arab, who, in the course of their two-days' acquaintance, had inspired him with a regard which was fully reciprocated. At last Orion had been the theme of their discourse, and the physician, a restless toiler who could not like any man whose life was one of idle enjoyment, though he did full justice to his brilliant gifts and well-applied studies, had judged him far more hardly than the older man. To the leech all forms of human life were sacred, and in his eyes everything that could injure the body or soul of a man was worthy of destruction. He knew all that Orion had brought upon the hapless Mandane, and how lightly he had trifled with the hearts of other women; in his eyes this made him a mischievous and criminal member of society. He regarded life as an obligation to be discharged by work alone, of whatever kind, if only it were a benefit to society as a whole. And such youths as Orion not only did not recognize this, but used the whole and the parts also for base and selfish ends. The old Moslem, on the contrary, viewed life as a dream whose fairest portion, the time of youth, each one should enjoy with alert senses, and only take care that at the waking which must come with death he might hope to find admission into Paradise. How little could man do against the iron force of fate! That could not be forefended by hard work; there was nothing for it but to take up a right attitude, and to confront and meet it with dignity. The bark of Orion's existence lacked ballast; in fine weather it drifted wherever the breeze carried it, He himself had taken care to equip it well; and if only the chances of life should freight it heavily—very heavily, and fling it on the rocks, then Orion might show who and what he was; he, Haschim, firmly believed that his character would prove itself admirable. It was in the hour of shipwreck that a man showed his worth.

Here the physician interrupted him to prove that it was not Fate, as imagined by Moslems, but man himself who guided the bark of life—but at this moment Paula looked into the room, and he broke off. The merchant bowed profoundly, Philippus respectfully, but with more embarrassment than might have been expected from the general confidence of his manner. For some years he had been a daily visitor in the governor's house, and after carefully ignoring Paula on her first arrival, since Dame Neforis had taken to treating her so coolly he drew her out whenever he had the opportunity. Her conversations with him had now become dear and even necessary to her, though at first his dry, cutting tone had displeased her, and he had often driven her into a corner in a way that was hard to bear. They kept her mind alert in a circle which never busied itself with anything but the trivial details of family life in the decayed city, or with dogmatic polemics—for the Mukaukas seldom or never took part in the gossip of the women.

The leech never talked of daily events, but expressed his views as to other and graver subjects in life, or in books with which they were both familiar; and he had the art of eliciting replies from her which he met with wit and acumen. By degrees she had become accustomed to his bold mode of thought, sometimes, it is true, too recklessly expressed; and the gifted girl now preferred a discussion with him to any other form of conversation, recognizing that a childlike and supremely unselfish soul animated this thoughtful reservoir of all knowledge. Almost everything she did displeased her uncle's wife, and so, of course, did her familiar intercourse with this man, whose appearance certainly had in it nothing to attract a young girl.—The physician to a family of rank was there to keep its members in good health, and it was unbecoming in one of them to converse with him on intimate terms as an equal. She reproached Paula—whose pride she was constantly blaming—for her unseemly condescension to Philippus; but what chiefly annoyed her was that Paula took up many a half-hour which otherwise Philippus would have devoted to her husband; and in him and his health her life and thoughts were centred.

The Arab at once recognized his foe of the previous evening; but they soon came to a friendly understanding—Paula confessing her folly in holding a single and kindly-disposed man answerable for the crimes of a whole nation. Haschim replied that a right-minded spirit always came to a just conclusion at last; and then the conversation turned on her father, and the physician explained to the Arab that she was resolved never to weary of seeking the missing man.

"Nay, it is the sole aim and end of my life," cried the girl.

"A great mistake, in my opinion," said the leech. But the merchant differed: there were things, he said, too precious to be given up for lost, even when the hope of finding them seemed as feeble and thin as a rotten reed.

"That is what I feel!" cried Paula. "And how can you think differently, Philip? Have I not heard from your own lips that you never give up all hope of a sick man till death has put an end to it? Well, and I cling to mine—more than ever now, and I feel that I am right. My last thought, my last coin shall be spent in the search for my father, even without my uncle and his wife, and in spite of their prohibition."

"But in such a task a young girl can hardly do without a man's succor," said the merchant. "I wander a great deal about the world, I speak with many foreigners from distant lands, and if you will do me the honor, pray regard me as your coadjutor, and allow me to help you in seeking for the lost hero."

"Thanks—I fervently thank you!" cried Paula, grasping the Moslem's hand with hearty pleasure. "Wherever you go bear my lost father in mind; I am but a poor, lonely girl, but if you find him. . ."

"Then you will know that even among the Moslems there are men. . ."

"Men who are ready to show compassion and to succor friendless women!" interrupted Paula.

"And with good success, by the blessing of the Almighty," replied the Arab. "As soon as I find a clue you shall hear from me; now, however, I must go across the Nile to see Amru the great general; I go in all confidence for I know that my poor, brave Rustem is in good hands, friend Philippus. My first enquiries shall be made in Fostat, rely upon that, my daughter."

"I do indeed," said Paula with pleased emotion. "When shall we meet again?"

"To-morrow, or the morning after at latest."

The young girl went up to him and whispered: "We have just heard of a clue; indeed, I hope my messenger is already on his way. Have you time to hear about it now?"

"I ought long since to have been on the other shore; so not to-day, but to-morrow I hope." The Arab shook hands with her and the physician, and hastily took his leave.

Paula stood still, thinking. Then it struck her that Hiram was now on the further side of the Nile, within the jurisdiction of the Arab ruler, and that the merchant could perhaps intercede for him, if she were to tell him all she knew. She felt the fullest confidence in the old man, whose kind and sympathetic face was still visible to her mind's eye, and without paying any further heed to the physician she went quickly towards the door of the sick-room. A crucifix hung close by, and the nun had fallen on her knees before it, praying for her infidel patient, and beseeching the Good Shepherd to have mercy on the sheep that was not of His fold. Paula did not venture to disturb the worshipper, who was kneeling just in the narrow passage; so some minutes elapsed before the leech, observing her uneasiness, came out of the larger room, touched the nun on the shoulder, and said in a low voice of genuine kindness:

"One moment, good Sister. Your pious intercession will be heard—but this damsel is in haste." The nun rose at once and made way, sending a wrathful glance after Paula as she hurried down the stairs.

At the door of the court-yard she looked out and about for the Arab, but in vain. Then she enquired of a slave who told her that the merchant's horse had waited for him at the gate a long time, that he had just come galloping out, and by this time must have reached the bridge of boats which connected Memphis with the island of Rodah and, beyond the island, with the fort of Babylon and the new town of Fostat.



CHAPTER XI.

Paula went up-stairs again, distressed and vexed with herself. Was it the heat that had enervated her and robbed her of the presence of mind she usually had at her command? She herself could not understand how it was that she had not at once taken advantage of the opportunity to plead to Haschim for her faithful retainer. The merchant might have interested himself for Hiram.

The slave at the gate had told her that he had not yet been taken; the time to intercede, then, had not yet come. But she was resolved to do so, to draw the wrath of her relations down on herself, and, if need should be, to relate all she had seen in the course of the night, to save her devoted servant. It was no less than her duty: still, before humiliating Orion so deeply she would warn him. The thought of charging him with so shameful a deed pained her like the need for inflicting an injury on herself. She hated him, but she would rather have broken the most precious work of art than have branded him—him whose image still reigned in her heart, supremely glorious and attractive.

Instead of following Mary to breakfast, or offering herself as usual to play draughts with her uncle, she went back to the sick-room. To meet Neforis or Orion at this moment would have been painful, indeed odious to her. It was long since she had felt so weary and oppressed. A conversation with the physician might perhaps prove refreshing; after the various agitations of the last few hours she longed for something, be it what it might, that should revive her spirits and give a fresh turn to her thoughts.

In the Masdakite's room the Sister coldly asked her what she wanted, and who had given her leave to assist in tending the sufferers. The leech, who at that moment was moistening the bandage on the wounded man's head, at this turned to the nun and informed her decidedly that he desired the young girl's assistance in attending on both his patients. Then he led the way sitting-room, saying in subdued into the adjoining tones:

"For the present all is well. Let us rest here a little while."

She sat down on a divan, and he on a seat opposite, and Philippus began:

"You were seeking handsome Orion just now, but you must. . . ."

"What?" she asked gravely. "And I would have you to know that the son of the house is no more to me than his mother is. Your phrase 'Handsome Orion' seems to imply something that I do not again wish to hear. But I must speak to him, and soon, in reference to an important matter."

"To what, then, do I owe the pleasure of seeing you here again? To confess the truth I did not hope for your return."

"And why not?"

"Excuse me from answering. No one likes to hear unpleasant things. If one of my profession thinks any one is not well. . . ."

"If that is meant for me," replied the girl, "all I can tell you is that the one thing on which I still can pride myself is my health. Say what you will—the very worst for aught I care. I want something to-day to rouse me from lethargy, even if it should make me angry."

"Very well then," replied the leech, "though I am plunging into deep waters!—As to health, as it is commonly understood, a fish might envy you; but the higher health—health of mind: that I fear you cannot boast of."

"This is a serious beginning," said Paula. "Your reproof would seem to imply that I have done you or some one else a wrong."

"If only you had!" exclaimed he. "No, you have not sinned against us in any way.—'I am as I am' is what you think of yourself; and what do you care for others?"

"That must depend on whom you mean by 'others!'"

"Nothing less than all and each of those with whom you live—here, in this house, in this town, in this world. To you they are mere air—or less; for the air is a tangible thing that can fill a ship's sails and drive it against the stream, whose varying nature can bring comfort or suffering to your body."

"My world is within!" said Paula, laying her hand on her heart.

"Very true. And all creation may find room there; for what cannot the human heart, as it is called, contain! The more we require it to take and keep, the more ready it is to hold it. It is unsafe to let the lock rust; for, if once it has grown stiff, when we want to open it no pulling and wrenching will avail. And besides—but I do not want to grieve you.—You have a habit of only looking backwards. . . ."

"And what that is pleasurable lies before me? Your blame is harsh and at the same time unjust.—Indeed, and how can you tell which way I look?"

"Because I have watched you with the eye of a friend. In truth, Paula, you have forgotten how to look around and forward. The life which lies behind you and which you have lost is all your world. I once showed you on a fragmentary papyrus that belonged to my foster father, Horus Apollo, a heathen demon represented as going forwards, while his head was turned on his neck so that the face and eyes looked behind him."

"I remember it perfectly."

Well, you have long been just like him. 'All things move,' says Heraclitus, so you are forced to float onwards with the great stream; or, to vary the image, you must walk forwards on the high-road of life towards the common goal; but your eye is fixed on what lies behind you, feasting on the prospect of a handsome and wealthy home, kindness and tenderness, noble and loving faces, and a happy, but alas! long-lost existence. All the same, on you must go.—What must the result be?"

"I must stumble, you think, and fall?"

The physician's reproof had hit Paula all the harder because she could not conceal from herself that there was much truth in it. She had come hither on purpose to find encouragement, and these accusations troubled even her sense of high health. Why should she submit to be taken to task like a school-girl by this man, himself still young? If this went on she would let him hear. . . . But he was speaking again, and his reply calmed her, and strengthened her conviction that he was a true and well-meaning friend.

"Not that perhaps," he said, "because—well, because nature has blessed you with perfect balance, and you go forward in full self-possession as becomes the daughter of a hero. We must not forget that it is of your soul that I am speaking; and that maintains its innate dignity of feeling among so much that is petty and mean."

"Then why need I fear to look back when it gives me so much comfort?" she eagerly enquired, as she gazed in his face with fresh spirit.

"Because it may easily lead you to tread on other people's feet! That hurts them; then they are annoyed, and they get accustomed to think grudgingly of you—you who are more lovable than they are."

"But quite unjustly; for I am not conscious of ever having intentionally grieved or hurt any one in my whole life."

"I know that; but you have done so unintentionally a thousand times."

"Then it would be better I should quit them altogether."

"No, and a thousand times no! The man who avoids his kind and lives in solitude fancies he is doing some great thing and raising himself above the level of the existence he despises. But look a little closer: it is self-interest and egoism which drive him into the cave and the cloister. In any case he neglects his highest duty towards humanity—or let us say merely towards the society he belongs to—in order to win what he believes to be his own salvation. Society is a great body, and every individual should regard himself as a member of it, bound to serve and succor it, and even, when necessary, to make sacrifices for it. The greatest are not too great. But those who crave isolation,—you yourself—nay, hear me out, for I may never again risk the danger of incurring your wrath—desire to be a body apart. What Paula has known and possessed, she keeps locked in the treasure-house of her memory under bolt and key; What Paula is, she feels she still must be—and for whom? Again, for that same Paula. She has suffered great sorrow and on that her soul lives; but this is evil nourishment, unwholesome and bad for her."

She was about to rise; but he bent forward, with a zealous conviction that he must not allow himself to be interrupted, and lightly touched her arm as though to prevent her quitting her seat, while he went on unhesitatingly:

"You feed on your old sorrows! Well and good. Many a time have I seen that trial can elevate the soul. It can teach a brave heart to feel the woes of others more deeply; it can rouse a desire to assuage the griefs of others with beautiful self-devotion. Those who have known pain and affliction enjoy ease and pleasure with double satisfaction; sufferers learn to be grateful for even the smaller joys of life. But you?—I have long striven for courage to tell you so—you derive no benefit from suffering because you lock it up in your breast—as if a man were to enclose some precious seed in a silver trinket to carry about with him. It should be sown in the earth, to sprout and bear fruit! However, I do not blame you; I only wish to advise you as a true and devoted friend. Learn to feel yourself a member of the body to which your destiny has bound you for the present, whether you like it or not. Try to contribute to it all that your capacities allow you achieve. You will find that you can do something for it; the casket will open, and to your surprise and delight you will perceive that the seed dropped into the soil will germinate, that flowers will open and fruit will form of which you may make bread, or extract from it a balm for yourself or for others! Then you will leave the dead to bury the dead, as the Bible has it, and dedicate to the living those great powers and gracious gifts which an illustrious father and a noble mother—nay, and a long succession of distinguished ancestors, have bequeathed to a descendant worthy of them. Then you will recover that which you have lost: the joy in existence which we ought both to feel and to diffuse, because it brings with it an obligation which it which is only granted to us once to fulfil. Kind fate has fitted you above a hundred thousand others for being loved; and if you do not forget the gratitude you owe for that, hearts will be turned to you, though now they shun the tree which has beset itself intentionally with thorns, and which lets its branches droop like the weeping-willows by the Nile. Thus you will lead a new and beautiful life, receiving and giving joy. The isolated and charmless existence you drag through here, to the satisfaction of none and least of all to your own, you can transform to one of fruition and satisfaction—breathing and moving healthily and beneficently in the light of day. It lies in your power. When you came up here to give your care to these poor injured creatures, you took the first step in the new path I desire to show you, to true happiness. I did not expect you, and I am thankful that you have come; for I know that as you entered that door you may have started on the road to renewed happiness, if you have the will to walk in it.—Thank God! That is said and over!"

The leech rose and wiped his forehead, looking uneasily at Paula who had remained seated; her breath came fast, and she was more confused and undecided than he had ever seen her. She clasped her hand over her brow, and gazed, speechless, into her lap as though she wished to smother some pain.

The young physician beat his arms together, like a laborer in the winter when his hands are frozen, and exclaimed with distressful emotion: "Yes, I have spoken, and I cannot regret having done so; but what I foresaw has come to pass: The greatest happiness that ever sweetened my daily life is gone out of it! To love Plato is a noble rule, but greater than Plato is the truth; and yet, those who preach it must be prepared to find that truth scares away friends from the unpleasing vicinity of its ill-starred Apostles!"

At this Paula rose, and following the impulse of her generous heart, offered the leech her hand in all sincerity; he grasped it in both his, pressing it so tightly that it almost hurt her, and his eyes glistened with moisture as he exclaimed: "That is as I hoped; that is splendid, that is noble! Let me but be your brother, high-souled maiden!—Now, come. That poor, crazy, lovely girl will heal of her death-wound under your hands if under any!"

"I will come!" she replied heartily; and there was something healthy and cheerful in her manner as they entered the sick-room; but her expression suddenly changed, and she asked pensively:

"And supposing we restore the unhappy girl—what good will she get by it?"

"She will breathe and see the sunshine," replied the leech; "she will be grateful to you, and finally she will contribute what she can to the whole body. She will be alive in short, she will live. For life—feel it, understand it as I do—life is the best thing we have." Paula gazed with astonishment in the man's unlovely but enthusiastic face. How radiantly joyful!

No one could have called it ugly at this moment, or have said that it lacked charm.

He believed what he had asserted with such fervent feeling, though it was in contradiction to a view he had held only yesterday and often defended: that life in itself was misery to all who could not grasp it of their own strength, and make something of it worth making. At this moment he really felt that it was the best gift.

Paula went forward, and his eyes followed her, as the gaze of the pious pilgrim is fixed on the holy image he has travelled to see, over seas and mountains, with bruised feet.

They went up to the sick girl's bed. The nun drew back, making her own reflections on the physician's altered mien, and his childlike, beaming contentment, as he explained to Paula what particular peril threatened the sufferer, and by what treatment he hoped to save her; how to make the bandages and give the medicines, and how necessary it was to accept the poor crazy girl's fancies and treat them as rational ideas so long as the fever lasted.

At last he was forced to go and attend to other patients. Paula remained sitting at the head of the bed and gazing at the face of the sufferer.

How fair it was! And Orion had snatched this rose in the bud, and trodden it under foot! She had, no doubt, felt for him what Paula herself felt. And now? Did she feel nothing but hatred of him, or could her heart, in spite of her indignation and scorn, not altogether cast off the spell that had once bound it?

What weakness was this! She was, she must, she would be his foe!

Her thoughts went back to the idle and futile life that she had led for so many years. The physician had hit the mark; and he had been too easy rather than severe. Yes, she would begin to make good use of her powers—but how, in what way, here and among these people? How transfigured poor Philippus had seemed when she had given him her hand; with what energy had he poured forth his words.

"And how false," she mused, "is the saying that the body is the mirror of the soul! If it were so, Philippus would have the face of Orion, and Orion that of Philippus." But could Orion's heart be wholly reprobate? Nay, that was impossible; her every impulse resisted the belief. She must either love him or hate him, there was no third alternative; but as yet the two passions were struggling within her in a way that was quite intolerable.

The physician had spoken of being a brother to her, and she could not help smiling at the idea. She could, she thought, live very happily and calmly with him, with her nurse Betta, and with the learned old friend who shared his home, and of whom he had often talked to her; she could join him in his studies, help him in his calling, and discuss many things well worth knowing. Such a life, she told herself, would be a thousand times preferable to this, with Neforis. In him she had certainly found a friend; and her glad recognition of the fact was the first step towards the fulfilment of his promise, since it showed that her heart was still ready to go forth to the kindness of another.

Amid these meditations, however, her anxiety for Hiram constantly recurred to her, and it was clear to her mind that, if she and Orion should come to extremities, she could no longer dwell under the governor's roof. Often she had longed for nothing so fervently as to be able to quit it; but to-day it filled her with dread, for parting from her uncle necessarily involved parting from his son. She hated him; still, to lose sight of him altogether would be very hard to bear. To go with Philippus and live with him as his sister would never do; nay, it struck her as something inconceivable, strangely incongruous.

Meanwhile she listened to Mandane's breathing and treated her in obedience to the leech's orders, longing for his return; presently however, not he but the nun came to the bed-side, laid her hand on the girl's forehead, and without paying any heed to Paula, whispered kindly: "That is right child, sleep away; have a nice long sleep. So long as she can be kept quiet; if only she goes on like this!—Her head is cooler. Philippus will certainly say there is scarcely any fever. Thank God, the worst danger is over!"

"Oh, how glad I am!" cried Paula, and she spoke with such warmth and sincerity that the nun gave her a friendly nod and left the sick girl to her care, quite satisfied.

It was long since Paula had felt so happy. She fancied that her presence had had a good affect on the sufferer, that Mandane had already been brought by her nursing to the threshold of a new life. Paula, who but just now had regarded herself as a persecuted victim of Fate, now breathed more freely in the belief that she too might bring joy to some one. She looked into Mandane's more than pretty face with real joy and tenderness, laid the bandage which had slipped aside gently over her ears, and breathed a soft kiss on her long silken lashes.

She rapidly grew in favor with the shrewd nun; when the hour for prayer came round, the sister included in her petitions—Paula—the orphan under a stranger's roof, the Greek girl born, by the inscrutable decrees of God, outside the pale of her saving creed. At length Philippus returned; he was rejoiced at his new friend's brightened aspect, and declared that Mandane had, under her care, got past the first and worst danger, and might be expected to recover, slowly indeed, but completely.

After Paula had renewed the compress—and he intentionally left her to do it unaided, he said encouragingly:

"How quickly you have learnt your business.—Now, the patient is asleep again; the Sister will keep watch, and for the present we can be of no use to the girl; sleep is the best nourishment she can have. But with us—or at any rate with me, it is different. We have still two hours to wait for the next meal: my breakfast is standing untouched, and yours no doubt fared the same; so be my guest. They always send up enough to satisfy six bargemen."

Paula liked the proposal, for she had long been hungry. The nun was desired to hasten to fetch some more plates, of drinking-vessels there was no lack—and soon the new allies were seated face to face, each at a small table. He carved the duck and the roast quails, put the salad before her and some steaming artichokes, which the nun had brought up at the request of the cook whose only son the physician had saved; he invited her attention to the little pies, the fruits and cakes which were laid ready, and played the part of butler; and then, while they heartily enjoyed the meal, they carried on a lively conversation.

Paula for the first time asked Philippus to tell her something of his early youth; he began with an account of his present mode of life, as a partner in the home of the singular old priest of Isis, Horus Apollo, a diligent student; he described his strenuous activity by day and his quiet studies by night, and gave everything such an amusing aspect that often she could not help laughing. But presently he was sad, as he told her how at an early age he had lost his father and mother, and was left to depend solely on himself and on a very small fortune, having no relations; for his father had been a grammarian, invited to Alexandria from Athens, who had been forced to make a road for himself through life, which had lain before him like an overgrown jungle of papyrus and reeds. Every hour of his life was devoted to his work, for a rough, outspoken Goliath, such as he, never could find it easy to meet with helpful patrons. He had managed to live by teaching in the high schools of Alexandria, Athens, and Caesarea, and by preparing medicines from choice herbs—drinking water instead of wine, eating bread and fruit instead of quails and pies; and he had made a friend of many a good man, but never yet of a woman—it would be difficult with such a face as his!

"Then I am the first?" said Paula, who felt deep respect for the man who had made his way by his own energy to the eminent position which he had long held, not merely in Memphis, but among Egyptian physicians generally.

He nodded, and with such a blissful smile that she felt as though a sunbeam had shone into her very soul. He noticed this at once, raised his goblet, and drank to her, exclaiming with a flush on his cheek:

"The joy that comes to others early has come to me late; but then the woman I call my friend is matchless!"

"Well, it is to be hoped she may not prove to be so wicked as you just now described her.—If only our alliance is not fated to end soon and abruptly."

"Ah!" cried the physician, "every drop of blood in my veins. . . ."

"You would be ready to shed it for me," Paula broke in, with a pathetic gesture, borrowed from a great tragedian she had seen at the theatre in Damascus. "But never fear: it will not be a matter of life and death—at worst they will but turn me out of the house and of Memphis."

"You?" cried Philippus startled, "but who would dare to do so?"

"They who still regard me as a stranger.—You described the case admirably. If they have their way, my dear new friend, our fate will be like that of the learned Dionysius of Cyrene."

"Of Cyrene?"

"Yes. It was my father who told me the story. When Dionysius sent his son to the High School at Athens, he sat down to write a treatise for him on all the things a student should do and avoid. He devoted himself to the task with the utmost diligence; but when, at the end of four years, he could write on the last leaf of the roll. 'Here this book hath a happy ending,' the young man whose studies it was intended to guide came home to Cyrene, a finished scholar."

"And we have struck up a friendship . . . ?"

"And made a treaty of alliance, only to be parted ere long."

Philippus struck his fist vehemently on the little table in front of his couch and exclaimed: "That I will find means to prevent!—But now, tell me in confidence, what has last happened between you and the family down-stairs?"

"You will know quite soon enough."

"Whichever of them fancies that you can be turned out of doors without more ado and there will be an end between us, may find himself mistaken!" cried the physician with an angry sparkle in his eyes. "I have a right to put in a word in this house. It has not nearly come to that yet, and what is more, it never shall. You shall quit it certainly; but of your own free will, and holding your head high. . . ."

As he spoke the door of the outer room was hastily opened and the next instant Orion was standing before them, looking with great surprise at the pair who had just finished their meal. He said coldly:

"I am disturbing you, I see."

"Not in the least," replied the leech; and the young man, perceiving what bad taste it would be and how much out of place to give expression to his jealous annoyance, said, with a smile: "If only it had been granted to a third person to join in this symposium!"

"We found each other all-sufficient company," answered Philippus.

"A man who could believe in all the doctrines of the Church as readily as in that statement would be assured of salvation," laughed Orion. "I am no spoilsport, respected friends; but I deeply regret that I must, on the present occasion, disturb your happiness. The matter in question. . . ." And he felt he might now abandon the jesting tone which so little answered to his mood, "is a serious one. In the first instance it concerns your freedman, my fair foe."

"Has Hiram come back?" asked Paula, feeling herself turn pale.

"They have brought him in," replied Orion. "My father at once summoned the court of judges. Justice has a swift foot here with us; I am sorry for the man, but I cannot prevent its taking its course. I must beg of you to appear at the examination when you are called."

"The whole truth shall be told!" said Paula sternly and firmly.

"Of course," replied Orion. Then turning to the physician, he added: "I would request you, worthy Esculapius, to leave me and my cousin together for a few minutes. I want to give her a word of counsel which will certainly be to her advantage."

Philippus glanced enquiringly at the girl; she said with clear decision: "You and I can have no secrets. What I may hear, Philippus too may know."

Orion, with a shrug, turned to leave the room:

On the threshold he paused, exclaiming with some excitement and genuine distress:

"If you will not listen to me for your own sake, do so at least, whatever ill-feeling you may bear me, because I implore you not to refuse me this favor. It is a matter of life or death to one human being, of joy or misery to another. Do not refuse me.—I ask nothing unreasonable, Philippus. Do as I entreat you and leave us for a moment alone."

Again the physician's eyes consulted the young girl's; this time she said: "Go!" and he immediately quitted the room.

Orion closed the door.

"What have I done, Paula," he began with panting breath, "that since yesterday you have shunned me like a leper—that you are doing your utmost to bring me to ruin?"

"I mean to plead for the life of a trusty servant; nothing more," she said indifferently.

"At the risk of disgracing me!" he retorted bitterly.

"At that risk, no doubt, if you are indeed so base as to throw your own guilt on the shoulders of an honest man."

"Then you watched me last night?"

"The merest chance led me to see you come out of the tablinum. . . ."

"I do not ask you now what took you there so late," he interrupted, "for it revolts me to think anything of you but the best, the highest.—But you? What have you experienced at my hands but friendship—nay, for concealment or dissimulation is here folly—but what a lover . . .?"

"A lover!" cried Paula indignantly. "A lover? Dare you utter the word, when you have offered your heart and hand to another—you. . . ."

"Who told you so?" asked Orion gloomily.

"Your own mother."

"That is it; so that is it?" cried the young man, clasping his hands convulsively. "Now I begin to see, now I understand. But stay. For if it is indeed that which has roused you to hate me and persecute me, you must love me, Paula—you do love me, and then, noblest and sweetest. . . ." He held out his hand; but she struck it aside, exclaiming in a tremulous voice:

"Be under no delusion. I am not one of the feeble lambs whom you have beguiled by the misuse of your gifts and advantages; and who then are eager to kiss your hands. I am the daughter of Thomas; and another woman's betrothed, who craves my embraces on the way to his wedding, will learn to his rueing that there are women who scorn his disgraceful suit and can avenge the insult intended them. Go—go to your judges! You, a false witness, may accuse Hiram, but I will proclaim you, you the son of this house, as the thief! We shall see which they believe."

"Me!" cried Orion, and his eyes flashed as wrathfully and vindictively as her own. "The son of the Mukaukas! Oh, that you were not a woman! I would force you to your knees and compel you to crave my pardon. How dare you point your finger at a man whose life has hitherto been as spotless as your own white raiment? Yes, I did go to the tablinum—I did tear the emerald from the hanging; but I did it in a fit of recklessness, and in the knowledge that what is my father's is mine. I threw away the gem to gratify a mere fancy, a transient whim. Cursed be the hour when I did it!—Not on account of the deed itself, but of the consequences it may entail through your mad hatred. Jealousy, petty, unworthy jealousy is at the bottom of it! And of whom are you jealous?"

"Of no one; not even of your betrothed, Katharina," replied Paula with forced composure. "What are you to me that, to spare you humiliation, I should risk the life of the most honest soul living? I have said: The judges shall decide between you."

"No, they shall not!" stormed Orion. "At least, not as you intend! Beware, beware, I say, of driving me to extremities! I still see in you the woman I loved; I still offer you what lies within my power: to let everything end for the best for you. . . ."

"For me! Then I, too, am to suffer for your guilt?"

"Did you hear the barking of hounds just now?"

"I heard dogs yelping."

"Very well.—Your freedman has been brought in, the pack got on his scent and have now been let into the house close to the tablinum. The dogs would not stir beyond the threshold and on the white marble step, towards the right-hand side, the print of a man's foot was found in the dust. It is a peculiar one, for instead of five toes there are but three. Your Hiram was fetched in, and he was found to have the same number of toes as the mark on the marble, neither more nor less. A horse trod on his foot, in your father's stable, and two of his toes had to be cut off: we got this out of the stammering wretch with some difficulty.—On the other side of the door-way there was a smaller print, but though the dogs paid no heed to that I examined it, and assured myself—how, I need not tell you—that it was you who had stood there. He, who has no business whatever in the house, must have made his way last night into the tablinum, our treasury. Now, put yourself in the judges' place. How can such facts be outweighed by the mere word of a girl who, as every one knows, is on anything rather than good terms with my mother, and who will leave no stone unturned to save her servant."

"Infamous!" cried Paula. "Hiram did not steal the gem, as you must know who stole it. The emerald he sold was my property; and were those stones really so much alike that even the seller. . ."

"Yes, indeed. He could not tell one from the other. Evil spirits have been at work all through, devilish, malignant demons. It would be enough to turn one's brain, if life were not so full of enigmas! You yourself are the greatest.—Did you give the Syrian your emerald to sell in order to fly from this house with the money?—You are silent? Then I am right. What can my father be to you—you do not love my mother—and the son!—Paula, Paula, you are perhaps doing him an injustice—you hate him, and it is a pleasure to you to injure him."

"I do not wish to hurt you or any one," replied the girl. "And you have guessed wrongly. Your father refused me the means of seeking mine."

"And you wanted to procure money to search for one who is long since dead!—Even my mother admits that you speak the truth; if she is right, and you really take no pleasure in doing me a mischief, listen to me, follow my advice, and grant my prayer! I do not ask any great matter."

"Speak on then."

"Do you know what a man's honor is to him? Need I tell you that I am a lost and despised man if I am found guilty of this act of the maddest folly by the judges of my own house? It may cost my father his life if he hears that the word 'guilty' is pronounced on me; and I—I—what would become of me I cannot foresee!—I—oh God, oh God, preserve me from frenzy!—But I must be calm; time presses. . . . How different it is for your servant; he seems ready even now to take the guilt on himself, for, whatever he is asked, he still keeps silence. Do you do the same; and if the judges insist on knowing what you had to do with the Syrian last night—for the dogs traced the scent to your staircase—hazard a conjecture that the faithful fellow stole the emerald in order to gratify your desire to search for your father, his beloved master. If you can make up your mind to so great a sacrifice—oh, that I should have to ask it of you!—I swear to you by all I hold sacred, by yourself and by my father's head, I will set Hiram free within three days, unbeaten and unhurt, and magnificently indemnified; and I will myself help him on the way whither he may desire to go, or you to send him, in search of your father.—Be silent; remain neutral in the background; that is all I ask, and I will keep my word—that, at any rate, you do not doubt?" She had listened to him with bated breath; she pitied him deeply as he stood there, a suppliant in bitter anguish of soul, a criminal who still could not understand that he was one, and who relied on the confidence that, only yesterday, he still had had the right to exact from all the world. He appeared before her like a fine proud tree struck by lightning, whose riven trunk, trembling to its fall, must be crushed to the earth by the first storm, unless the gardener props it up. She longed to be able to forget all he had brought upon her and to grasp his hand in friendly consolation; but her deeply aggrieved pride helped her to preserve the cold and repellent manner she had so far succeeded in assuming.

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