Across the Zodiac eBook

Percy Greg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 587 pages of information about Across the Zodiac.

“Then,” I said, “I suppose your engagement of to-day was a meeting of this society?”

“Yes,” he answered, “a meeting of the Chamber to which I and the elder members of my household, including my son and his wife, belong.”  “But,” I said, “if you are more powerful than the rulers of your people, what need of such careful secrecy?”

“You will understand the reason,” he answered, “when you learn the nature of our powers.  Hundreds among millions, we are no match for the fighting force of our unbelieving countrymen.  Our safety lies in the terror inspired by a tradition, verified by repeated and invariable experience, that no one who injures one of us but has reason to rue it, that no mortal enemy of the Star has ever escaped signal punishment, more terrible for the mystery attending it.  Were we known, were our organisation avowed, we might be hunted down and exterminated, and should certainly suffer frightful havoc, even if in the end we were able to frighten or overcome our enemies.  But if you are disposed to accept my offer—­and enrolment among us gives you at once your natural place in this planet and your best security against the enmity you have incurred and will incur here—­I should prefer to make the rest of the explanation that must precede your admission in presence of my family.  The first step, the preliminary instruction in our creed and our simpler mysteries, which is the work of the Novitiate, is a solemn epoch in the lives of our children.  They are not trusted with our secret till we can rely on the maturity of their intelligence and loyalty of their nature.  Eveena would in any case have been received as a novice within some dozen days.  It will now be easy for me, considering her education and intelligence and my own position in the Order, to obtain, for her as for you, exemption from the usual probation on proof that you both know all that is usually taught therein, and admission on the same occasion; and it will add solemnity and interest to her first initiation, that this chief lesson of her life should be shared this evening with him to whom she owes it that she lives to enter the society, to which her ancestors have belonged since its institution.”

We passed into the peristyle, where the ladies were as usual assembled; but the children had been dismissed, and of the maidens Eveena only was present.  Fatigue and agitation had left her very pale, and she was resting at full length on the cushions with her head pillowed on her mother’s knee.  As we approached, however, they all rose, the other ladies greeting me eagerly and warmly, Eveena rising with difficulty and faltering the welcome which the rest had spoken with enthusiastic earnestness.  Forgetting for the moment the prudence which ignorance of Martial customs had hitherto dictated, I lifted to my lips the hand that she, following the example of the rest, but shyly and half reluctantly, laid on my shoulder—­a form very different to the distant greeting I had

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Across the Zodiac from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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