“Oh—what is that?” she asked, and for all the reticence of her eagerness, her voice was a betrayal.
Prince Tabnit turned to the window. Below, in the palace grounds, and without, in the Eurychorus, a thousand people awaited the opening of the palace doors. They filled the majestic avenue, poured up the shadowed alleys that taught the necessity of mystery, were grouped beneath the honey-sweet trees; and above their heads, from every dome and column in the fair city, flowed and streamed the joyous, wizard, nameless colours of the pennons blown heavenward against the blue. They were come, this strange, wise, elusive people, to her marriage.
The prince was smiling as he met her eyes; for the world was always the exquisite intaglio, and to-day was its design.
“They know,” he said simply, “what was to have been at noon to-day. Do you not understand my condition?”
IN THE HALL OF KINGS
Somewhat before noon the great doors of the Palace of the Litany and of the Hall of Kings were thrown open, and the people streamed in from the palace grounds and the Eurychorus. Abroad among them—elusive as that by which we know that a given moment belongs to dawn, not dusk—was the sense of questioning, of unrest, of expectancy that belongs to the dawn itself. Especially the youths and maidens—who, besides wisdom, knew something of spells—waited with a certain wistfulness for what might be, for Change is a kind of god even to the immortals. But there were also those who weighed the departures incident to the coming of the strange people from over-seas; and there were not lacking conservatives of the old regime to shake wise heads and declare that a barbarian is a barbarian, the world over.
All that rainbow multitude, clad for festival, rose with the first light music that stole, winged and silken, from hidden cedar alcoves, and some minutes past the sounding of the hour of noon the chamfered doors set high in the south wall of the Hall of Kings were swung open, and at the head of the stair appeared Olivia.
She was alone, for the custom of Yaque required that the island princesses should on the day of their recognition first appear alone before their people in token of their mutual faith. From the wardrobes at the castle Olivia had chosen the coronation gown of Queen Mitygen herself. It was of fine lace woven in a single piece, and it lay in a foam of shining threads traced with pure lines of shadow. On her head were a jeweled coronal and jeweled hair-loops in the Phoenician fashion, once taken from a king’s casket and sent secretly, upon the decline of Assyrian ascendancy, to be bartered in the marts of Coele-Syria. Chains of jewels, in a noon of colour, lay about her throat, as once they lay upon the shoulders of the dead queens of Yaque and, before them, of the women of the elder dynasties long since recorded in indifferent dust. Girdling her waist was a zone of rubies that burned positive in the tempered light. With all her delicacy, Olivia was like her rubies—vivid, graphic, delineated not by light but by line.