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Percy Greg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 490 pages of information about Across the Zodiac.
less preoccupied.  Enured to the perils of war, of the chase, of Eastern diplomacy, and of travel in the wildest parts of the Earth, I do not pretend indifference to the fear of assassination, and especially of poison.  Cromwell, and other soldiers of equal nerve and clearer conscience, have found their iron courage sorely shaken by a peril against which no precautions were effective and from which they could not enjoy an hour’s security.  The incessant continuous strain on the nerves is, I suppose, the chief element in the peculiar dread with which brave men have regarded this kind of peril; as the best troops cannot endure to be under fire in their camp.  Weighing, however, the probability that girls who had been selected by the Sovereign, and had left their Nursery only to pass directly into my house, could have been already bribed or seduced to become the instruments of murderous treachery, I found it but slight; and before we reached the house I had made up my mind to discard the apprehensions or precautions recommended to me on their account.  Far better, if need be, to die by poison than to live in hourly terror of it.  Better to be murdered than to suspect of secret treason those with whom I must maintain the most intimate relations, and whose sex and years made it intolerable to believe them criminal.  I dismissed the thought, then; and believing that I had probably wronged them in allowing it to dwell for a moment in my mind, I felt perhaps more tenderly than before towards them, and certainly indisposed to name to Eveena a suspicion of which I was myself ashamed.  Perhaps, too, youth and beauty weighed in my conclusion more than cool reason would have allowed.  A Martial proverb says—­

  “Trust a foe, and you may rue it;
   Trust a friend, and perish through it. 
   Trust a woman if you will;—­
   Thrice betrayed, you’ll trust her still.”

As to the general warning, I was wishful to consult Eveena, and unwilling to withhold from her any secret of my thoughts; but equally averse to disturb her with alarms that were trying even to nerves seasoned by the varied experience of twenty years against every open peril.

CHAPTER XX — LIFE, SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC.

As we approached the house I caught sight of Eveena’s figure among the party gathered on the roof.  She had witnessed the interview, but her habitual and conscientious deference forbade her to ask a confidence not volunteered; and she seemed fully satisfied when, on the first occasion on which we were alone, I told her simply that the stranger belonged to the Zinta and had been recommended by her father himself to the charge of my estate.  Though reluctant to disturb her mind with fears she could not shake off as I could, and which would make my every absence at least a season of terror, the sense of insecurity doubtless rendered me more anxious to enjoy whenever possible the only society in which it was permissible to be frank and

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