Here our host rejoined us. We passed into the gallery, where several persons were awaiting us; the men for the most part wearing a small vizor dependent from the turban, which concealed their faces; the women all, without exception, closely veiled. As soon as Esmo appeared, the party formed themselves into a sort of procession two and two. Motioning me to take the last place, Esmo passed himself to its head. If the figure beside me were not at once recognised, I could not mistake the touch of the hand that stole into my own. The lights in the gallery were extinguished, and then I perceived a lamp held at the end of a wand of crystal, which gleamed above Esmo’s head, and sufficed to guide us, giving light enough to direct our footsteps and little more. Perhaps this half-darkness, the twilight which gave a certain air of mystery to the scene and of uncertainty to the forms of objects encountered on our route, had its own purpose. We reached very soon the end of the gallery, and then the procession turned and passed suddenly into another chamber, apparently narrow, but so faintly lighted by the lamp in our leader’s hands that its dimensions were matter of mere conjecture. That we were descending a somewhat steep incline I was soon aware; and when we came again on to level ground I felt sure that we were passing through a gallery cut in natural rock. The light was far too dim to enable me to distinguish any openings in the walls; but the procession constantly lengthened, though it was impossible to see where and when new members joined. Suddenly the light disappeared. I stood still for a moment in surprise, and when I again went forward I became speedily conscious that all our companions had vanished, and that we stood alone in utter darkness. Fearing to lead Eveena further where my own steps were absolutely uncertain, I paused for some time, and with little difficulty decided to remain where I was, until something should afford an indication of the purpose of those who had brought us so far, and who must know, if they had not actual means of observing, that in darkness and solitude I should not venture to proceed.
Presently, as gradually as in Northern climates the night passes into morning twilight, the darkness became less absolute. Whence the light came it was impossible to perceive. Diffused all around and slowly broadening, it just enabled me to discern a few paces before us the verge of a gulf. This might have been too shallow for inconvenience, it might have been deep enough for danger. I waited till my eyes should be able to penetrate its interior; but before the light entered it I perceived, apparently growing across it, really coming gradually into view under the brightening gleam, a species of bridge which—when the twilight ceased to increase, and remained as dim as that cast by the crescent moon—assumed the outline of a slender trunk supported by wings, dark for the most part but defined along the edge by