Esmo listened with the anxious attention of one who believed that her every word had a real and literal meaning; and his face was overclouded with a calm but deep sadness, which testified to the nature of the impression made on his mind by language that hardly conveyed to my own more than a dim and general prediction of victory, won through scenes of trial and trouble. But when she had closed, a quiet satisfaction in what seemed to be the final promise of triumph to the Star, at whatever cost to the noblest of its adherents, was all that I could trace in his countenance.
The sibyl fell back as the last word passed her lips, with a sigh of relief, into what was evidently a profound and insensible sleep. Those around me must have witnessed such scenes at least as often as I; but it was plain that the impression made, even on the experienced Chiefs of the Order, was far deeper than had affected myself. I should hardly have been able to remember the words of the prophecy, but for subsequent conversation thereon with Eveena, when one part had been fulfilled and the rest was on the eve of a too terribly truthful fulfilment; but for the events that fixed their prediction in my mind—it may be in terms a little more precise than those actually employed, though I have endeavoured to record these with conscientious accuracy.
Led by Esmo, we passed along another gallery into the small chamber where met the secret Council of the Order, and long and anxious were the debates wherein the revelations of the dreamer were treated as conveying the most certain and unquestionable warning. The first rays of morning were stealing through the mists into the peristyle of our host’s dwelling before I re-entered Eveena’s chamber. She was slumbering, but restlessly, and so lightly that she sprang up at once on my entrance. For a few moments all other thought was lost in the delight of my return after an absence whose very length had alarmed her, despite her father’s previous assurance. But as at last she drew back sufficiently to look into my face, its expression seemed to startle and sadden her. The questions that sprang to her lips died there, as she probably saw in my eyes a look not only of weariness and perplexity, but of profound reluctance to speak of what had passed. Expressing her sympathy only by look and touch, she began to unclasp my robe at the throat, aware that my only wish was for rest, and content to postpone her own anxiety and natural curiosity. Then, as the golden sash which I had not removed met her sight, she looked up for a moment with a glance of natural pride and fondness, intensely gratified by the highly-prized honour paid to her husband; then bent low and kissed my hand with the gesture wherewith the presence of a superior is acknowledged by the members of the Order. “Used as my earlier life was, Eveena, to the Eastern prostrations of my own world, I hate all that recals them; and if I must accept, as I fulfil, these forms in the Halls of the Zinta, let me never be reminded of them by you.”