“Ah!” said Eunane, “you send her away that she may not see the last. Is it so near?”
“No, darling!” I replied (she, like Eveena, had learnt the meaning of one or two expressions of human affection in my own tongue), “but I have that to say which I would not willingly say in her presence. You dread death not as a short terrible pain, and for you it will not be so, not as a short sleep, but as eternal senselessness and nothingness. Has it never seemed to you strange that, loving Eveena as I do, I do not fear to die? Though you did not know it, I have lived almost since first you knew me under the threat of death; and death sudden, secret, without warning, menacing me every day and every hour. And yet, though death meant leaving her and leaving her to a fate I could not foresee, I have been able to look on it steadily. Kneeling here, I know that I am very probably giving my life to the same end as yours. I do not fear. That may not seem strange to you; but Eveena knows all I know, and I could scarcely keep Eveena away. So loving each other, we do not fear to die, because we believe, we know, that that in us which thinks, and feels, and loves will live; that in death we lay aside the body as we lay aside our worn-out clothing. If I thought otherwise, Eunane, I could not bear this parting.”
She clasped my hands, almost as much surprised and touched, I thought, for the moment by the expression of an affection of which till that hour neither of us were fully aware, as by the marvellous and incredible assurance she had heard.
“Ah!” she said, “I have heard her people are strange, and they dream such things. No, Clasfempta, it is a fancy, or you say it to comfort me, not because it is true.”
The expression of terror that again came over her face was too painful for endurance. To calm that terror I would have broken every oath, have risked every penalty. But in truth I could never have paused to ask what in such a case oath or law permitted, “Listen, Eunane,” I said, “and be calm. Not only Eveena, not only I, but hundreds, thousands, of the best and kindliest men and women of your world hold this faith as fast as we do. You feel what Eveena is. What she is and what others are not, she owes to this trust:—to the assurance of a Power unseen, that rules our lives and fortunes and watches our conduct, that will exact an account thereof, that holds us as His children, and will never part with us. Do you think it is a lie that has made Eveena what she is?”
“But you think, you do not know.”
“Yes, I know; I have seen.” Here a touch, breaking suddenly upon that intense concentration of mind and soul on a single thought, violently startled me, gentle as it was; and to my horror I saw that Eveena was kneeling with me by the couch.
“Remember,” she said, in the lowest, saddest whisper, “’the Veil that guards the Shrine.’”
“No matter, Eveena,” I answered in the same tone, the pain at my heart suppressing even the impulse of indignation, not with her, but with the law that could put such a thought into her heart. “Neither penalty nor oath should silence me now. Whether I break our law I know not; but I would forfeit life here—I would forfeit life hereafter, rather than fail a soul that rests on mine at such a moment.”