“I have seen him, my mother; I have spoken to him. I spent hours with Sir Jasper Kingsland last night.”
“Thou didst?” Her words came pantingly, while passion throbbed in every line of her face. “And there is a son—an heir?”
She snatched her hand away and threw up her withered arms with a vindictive shriek.
“And I lie here, a helpless log, and he triumphs! I, Zenith, the Queen of the Tribe—I, once beautiful and powerful, happy and free! I lie here, a withered hulk, what he has made me! And a son and heir is born to him!”
As if the thought had goaded her to madness, she leaped up in bed, tossing her gaunt arms and shrieking madly:
“Take me to him—take me to him! Zara! Pietro! Take me to him, if ye are children of mine, that I may hurl my burning curse upon him and his son before I die!”
She fell back with an impotent scream, and the man Pietro caught her in his arms. Quivering and convulsed, she writhed in an epileptic fit.
“She will kill herself yet,” Pietro said. “Hand me the drops, Zara.”
Zara poured something out of a bottle into a cup, and Pietro held it to the sick woman’s livid lips.
She choked and swallowed, and, as if by magic, lay still in his arms. Very tenderly he laid her back on the bed.
“She will sleep now, Zara,” he said. “Let us go.”
They descended the stairs. Down below, the man laid his hands on his wife’s shoulders and looked into her face.
“Watch her, Zara,” he said, “for she is mad, and the very first opportunity she will make her escape and seek out Sir Jasper Kingsland; and that is the very last thing I want. So watch your mother well.”
An uninvited guest.
Sir Jasper Kingsland stood moodily alone. He was in the library, standing by the window—that very window through which, one stormy night scarcely a month before, he had admitted Achmet the Astrologer. He stood there with a face of such dark gloom that all the brightness of the sunlit April day could not cast one enlivening gleam.
He stood there scowling darkly upon it all, so lost in his own somber thoughts that he did not hear the library door open, nor the soft rustle of a woman’s dress as she halted on the threshold.
A fair and stately lady, with a proud, colorless face lighted up with pale-blue eyes, and with bands of pale flaxen hair pushed away under a dainty lace cap—a lady who looked scarce thirty, although almost ten years older, unmistakably handsome, unmistakably proud. It was Olivia, Lady Kingsland.
“Alone, Sir Jasper!” a musical voice said. “May I come in, or do you prefer solitude and your own thoughts?”
The sweet voice—soft and low, as a lady’s voice should be—broke the somber spell that bound him. He wheeled round, his dark, moody face lighting up at sight of her, as all the glorious morning sunshine never could have lighted it. That one radiant look would have told you how he loved his wife.