“You will not,” he said, “return till late, and I wish you would induce Eveena to ensure, by composing herself to sleep before your return, that you shall not be asked to converse until the morning.”
He withdrew with Kevima, and, as instructed, I proceeded to change my dress for one of pure white adapted to the occasion, with only a band of crimson around the waist and throat, and to invest myself in the badge of the Order. The turban which I wore, without attracting attention, in the Asiatic rather than in the Martial form, was of white mingled with red; a novelty which seemed to Eveena’s eyes painfully ominous. In Martial language, as in Zveltic symbolism, crimson generally takes the place of black as the emblem of guilt and peril. When Esmo re-entered our chamber for a moment to summon me, he was invested, as in the Shrine itself, in the full attire of his office, and I was recalled to a recollection of the reverence due to the head of the Brotherhood by the sudden change in Eveena’s manner. To her father, though a most respectful, she was a fearlessly affectionate child. For Clavelta she had only the reverence, deeply intermingled with awe, with which a devout Catholic convert from the East may approach for the first time some more than usually imposing occupant of the Chair of St. Peter. Before the arm that bore the Signet, and the sash of gold, we bent knee and head in the deference prescribed by our rules—a homage which the youngest child in the public Nurseries would not dream of offering to the Campta himself. At a sign from his hand I followed Esmo, hoping rather than expecting that Eveena would obey the counsel indirectly addressed to her. Traversing the same passages as before, save that a slight turn avoided the symbolic bridge, and formally challenged at each point as usual by the sentries, who saluted with profoundest reverence the Signet of the Order, we passed at last into the Hall of Initiation.
But on this occasion its aspect was completely changed. A space immediately in front of what I may call the veil of the Shrine was closed in by drapery of white bordered with crimson. The Chiefs occupied, as before, their seats on the platform. Some fifty members of the Order sat to right and left immediately below; but Esmo, on this occasion, seated himself on the second leftward step of the Throne, which, with the silver light and the other mystic emblems, was unveiled in the same strange manner as before at his approach. Near the lower end of the small chamber thus formed, crossing the passage between the seats on either hand, was a barrier of the bright red metal I have more than once mentioned, and behind it a seat of some sable material. Behind this, to right and left, stood silent and erect two sentries robed in green, and armed with the usual spear. A deep intense absolute silence prevailed, from the moment when the last of the party had taken his place, for the space of some ten minutes. In the faces