“How so?” she asked in surprise.
“You laid your hand instinctively on my left arm, the one your people use. Had I made the slightest angry gesture, you would have held back my right. Had I deserved that Eveena should think so ill of me—think me capable of doing such dishonour to her presence and to my own roof, which should have protected an equal enemy from that which you feared for a helpless girl? For what you would have checked was such a blow as men deal to men who can strike back; and the hand that had given it would have been unfit to clasp man’s in friendship or woman’s in love. You yourself must have shrunk from its touch.”
She caught and held it fast to her lips.
“Can I forget that it saved my life? I don’t understand you at all, but I see that I have frozen your heart. I did fancy for one moment you would strike, as passionate men and women often do strike provoking girls, perhaps forgetting your own strength; and I knew you would be miserable if you did hurt her—in that way. The next moment I was ashamed, more than you will believe, to have wronged you so. Like every man, from the head of a household to the Arch-Judge or the Campta, you must rule by fear. But your wrath will ‘stand to cool;’ and you will hate to make a girl cry as you would hate to send a criminal to the electric-rack, the lightning-stroke, or the vivisection-table. And, whatever you had done, do you fancy that I could shrink from you? I said, ’If you weary of your flower-bird you must strike with the hammer;’ and if you could do so, do you think I should not feel for your hand to hold it to the last?”
“Hush, Eveena! how can I bear such words? You might forgive me for any outrage to you: I doubt your easily forgetting cruelty to another. I have not a heart like yours. As I never failed a friend, so I never yet forgave a foe. Yet even I might pardon one of those girls an attempt to poison myself, and in some circumstances I might even learn to like her better afterwards. But I doubt if I could ever touch again the hand that had mixed the poison for another, though that other were my mortal enemy.”
Before I slept Eveena had convinced me, much to my own discomfiture, how very limited must be any authority that could be delegated to her. In such a household there could be no second head or deputy, and an attempt to devolve any effective charge on her would only involve her in trouble and odium. Even at the breakfast, spread as usual in the centre of the peristyle, she entreated that we should present ourselves separately. Eunane appeared to have performed very dexterously the novel duty assigned to her. The ambau had obeyed her orders with well-trained promptitude, and the carvee, in bringing fruit, leaves, and roots from the outer garden, had more than verified