We were received on landing by our former host and conducted to his house. On this occasion, however, I was not detained in the hall, but permitted at once to enter the chamber allotted to us. Eveena, who had exacted from me all that I knew, and much that I meant to conceal, respecting the occasion of our journey, was much agitated and not a little alarmed. My own humble rank in the Zinta rendered so sudden and imperative a summons the more difficult to understand, and though by this time well versed in the learning, neither of us was familiar with the administration of the Brotherhood. I was glad therefore on her account, even more than on my own, when, a scratch at the door having obtained admission for an amba, it placed before me a message from Esmo requesting a private conference. Her father’s presence set Eveena’s mind at rest; since she had learned, strangely enough from myself, what she had never known before, the rank he held among the brethren.
“I have summoned you,” he said as soon as I joined him, “for more than one reason. There is but one, however, that I need now explain. Important questions, are as a rule either settled by the Chiefs alone in Council, or submitted to a general meeting of the Order. In this case neither course can be adopted. It would not have occurred to myself that, under present circumstances, you could render material service in either of the two directions in which it may be required. But those by whom the cause has been prepared have asked that you should be one of the Convent, and such a request is never refused. Indeed, its refusal would imply either such injustice as would render the whole proceeding utterly incompatible with the first principles of our cohesion, or such distrust of the person summoned as is never felt for a member of the Brotherhood. I would rather say no more on the subject now. Your nerve and judgment will be sufficiently tried to-night; and it is a valuable maxim of our science that, in the hours immediately preceding either an important decision or a severe trial, the spirit should be left as far as possible calm and unvexed by vague shadows of that which is to come.”
The maxim thus expressed, if rendered into the language of material medicine, is among those which every man of experience holds and practically acts upon. I turned the conversation, then, by inviting Esmo into my own apartment; and I was touched indeed by the eager delight, even stronger than I had expected, with which Eveena welcomed her father, and inquired into the minutest details of the home life from which she had been, as it seemed to her, so long separated. What was, however, specially characteristic was the delicate care with which, even in this first meeting with one of her own family, she contrived still to give the paramount place in her attention to her husband, and never for a moment to let him feel excluded from a conversation with whose topics he was imperfectly acquainted, and in which he might have been supposed uninterested. The hours thus passed pleasantly away; and, except when Kevima, joined us at the evening meal, adding a new and unexpected pleasure to Eveena’s natural delight in this sudden reunion, we remained undisturbed until a very low electric signal, sounding apparently through several chambers at once, recalled Esmo’s mind to the duties before him.