Eveena heard my story with more annoyance than interest, mortified not a little by the reproof I had drawn upon myself and my followers; and, despite her reluctance to seem to acknowledge a fault in me, apparently afraid that a similar ebullition of feeling might on some future occasion lead to serious disaster.
CHAPTER XXIX — AZRAEL.
To detain as a captive and a culprit, thus converting my own house into a prison, my would-be murderess and former plaything, was intolerably painful. To leave her at large was to incur danger such as I had no right to bring on others. To dismiss her was less perilous than the one course, less painful than the other, but combined peril and pain in a degree which rendered both Eveena and myself most reluctant to adopt it. From words of Esmo’s, and from other sources, I gathered that the usual course under such circumstances would have been to keep the culprit under no other restraint than that confinement to the house which is too common to be remarkable, trusting to the terror which punishment inflicted and menaced by domestic authority would inspire. But Eive now understood the limits which conscience or feeling imposed on the use of an otherwise unlimited power. She knew very nearly how much she could have to fear; and, timid as she was, would not be cowed or controlled by apprehensions so defined and bounded. Eveena herself naturally resented the peril, and was revolted by the treason even more intensely than myself; and was for once hardly content that so heinous a crime should be so lightly visited. In interposing “between the culprit and the horrors of the law, she had taken for granted the strenuous exertion of a domestic jurisdiction almost as absolute under the circumstances as that of ancient Rome.
“What suggested to you,” I asked one day of Eveena, “the suspicion that so narrowly saved my life?”
“The carefully steadied hand—you have teased her so often for spilling everything it carried—and the unsteady eyes. But,” she added reluctantly, “I never liked to watch her—no, not lest you should notice it—but because she did not seem true in her ways with you; and I should have missed those signs but for a strange warning.” ... She paused.
“I would not be warned,” I answered with a bitter sigh. “Tell me, Madonna.”
“It was when you left me in this room alone,” she said, her exquisite delicacy rendering her averse to recal, not the coercion she had suffered, but the pain she knew I felt in so coercing her. “Dearest,” she added with a sudden effort, “let me speak frankly, and dispel the pain you feel while you think over it in silence.”
I kissed the hand that clasped my own, and she went on, speaking with intentional levity.
“Had a Chief forgotten?” tracing the outline of a star upon her bosom. “Or did you think Clavelta’s daughter had no share in the hereditary gifts of her family?”