CHAPTER VIII — A FAITH AND ITS FOUNDER.
On the return of the family, my host was met at the door with such accounts of what had happened as led him at once to see and question his daughter. It was not, therefore, till he had heard her story that I saw him. More agitated than I should have expected from one under ordinary circumstances so calm and self-possessed, he entered my room with a face whose paleness and compressed lips indicated intense emotion; and, laying his hand on my shoulder, expressed his feeling rather in look and tone than in his few broken and not very significant words. After a few moments, however, he recovered his coolness, and asked me to supply the deficiencies of Eveena’s story. I told him briefly but exactly what had passed from the moment when I missed her to that of her rescue. He listened without the slightest symptom of surprise or anger to the tale of the Regent’s indifference, and seemed hardly to understand the disgust and indignation with which I dwelt upon it. When I had finished—
“You have made,” he said, “an enemy, and a dangerous one; but you have also secured friends against whose support even the anger of a greater than the Zampta might break as harmlessly as waves upon a rock. He behaved only as any one else would have done; and it is useless to be angry with men for being what they habitually and universally are. What you did for Eveena, one of ourselves, perhaps, but no other, might have risked for a first bride on the first day of her marriage. Indeed, though I am most thankful to you, I should, perhaps, have withheld my consent to my daughter’s request had I supposed that you felt so strongly for her.”
“I think,” I replied with some displeasure, “that I may positively affirm that I have spoken no word to your daughter which I should not have spoken in your presence. I am too unfamiliar with your ideas to know whether your remark has the same force and meaning it would have borne among my own people; but to me it conveys a grave reproach. When I accepted the charge of your daughter during this day’s excursion, I thought of her only as every man thinks of a young, pretty, and gentle girl of whom he has seen and knows scarcely anything. To avail myself of what has since happened to make a deeper impression on her feelings than you might approve would have seemed to me unpardonable treachery.”
“You do utterly misunderstand me,” he answered. “It may be that Eveena has received an impression which will not be effaced from her mind. It may be that this morning, could I have foreseen it, I should have decidedly wished to avoid anything that would so impress her. But that feeling, if it exist, has been caused by your acts and not by your words. That you should do your utmost, at any risk to yourself, to save her, is consistent with what I know of your habit of mind, and ought not much to surprise me. But, from your own account of what you said to the Zampta, you were not merely willing to risk life for life. When you deemed it impossible to return without her, you spoke as few among us would seriously speak of a favourite bride.”