When the prince ceased speaking the hall was hushed; but because of the tempest in the hearts of them all the silence was as if a strong wind, sweeping powerfully through a forest, were to sway no boughs and lift no leaves, only to strive noiselessly round one who walked there.
Prince Tabnit wrapped his white mantle about him and sat upon his throne. Spell-stricken, they watched him, that great multitude, and might not turn away their eyes. Slowly, imperceptibly, as Time touches the familiar, the face of the prince took on its change—and one could not have told wherein the change lay, but subtly as the encroachment of the dark, or the alchemy of the leaves, or the betrayal of certain modes of death, the finger was upon him. While they watched he became an effigy, the hideous face of a fantasy of smoke against the night sky, with a formless hand lifted from among the delicate laces in farewell. There was no death—the horror was that there was no death. Only this curse of age drying and withering at the bones.
A long, whining cry came from Cassyrus, who covered his face with his mantle and fled. The spell being broken, by common consent the great hall was once more in motion—St. George would never forget that tide toward all the great portals and the shuddering backward glances at the white heap upon the beetling throne. They fled away into the reassuring sunlight, leaving the echoless hall deserted, save for that breathing one upon the throne.
There was one other. From somewhere beside the dais the woman Elissa crept and knelt, clasping the knees of the man.
“Will you have tea?” asked Olivia.
St. George brought a deck cushion and tucked it in the willow steamer chair and said adoringly that he would have tea. Tea. In a world where the essentials and the inessentials are so deliciously confused, to think that tea, with some one else, can be a kind of Heaven.