“That I don’t,” said nurse, “nor the doctor, either. So run away, Miss Milly, and go to sleep yourself. The baby will be here, all safe for you, in the morning.”
The little girl—a flaxen-haired, pretty-featured child—kissed the baby, kissed papa, and dutifully departed. Sir Jasper followed her out of the room, down the stairs, and back into the library, with the face of a man who has just been reprieved from sudden death. As he re-entered the library, he paused and started a step back, gazing fixedly at one of the windows. The heavy curtain had been partially drawn back, and a white, spectral face was glued to the glass, glaring in.
“Who have we here?” said the baronet to himself; “that face can belong to no one in the house.”
He walked straight to the window—the face never moved. A hand was raised and tapped on the glass. A voice outside spoke:
“For Heaven’s sake, open and let me in, before I perish in this bitter storm.”
Sir Jasper Kingsland opened the window and flung it wide.
“Enter! whoever you are,” he said. “No one shall ask in vain at Kingsland, this happy night.”
He stepped back, and, all covered with snow, the midnight intruder entered and stood before him. And Sir Jasper Kingsland saw the strangest-looking creature he had ever beheld in the whole course of his life.
Achmet the astrologer.
An old man, yet tall and upright, wearing a trailing cloak of dull black, long gray hair flowing over the shoulders, and tight to the scalp a skull-cap of black velvet. A patriarchal board, abundant and silver-white, streamed down his breast, and out of a dull, white face, seamed and wrinkled, looked a pair of eyes piercing and black.
Sir Jasper took a stop backward, and regarded this singular apparition in wonder. The old man folded his arms across his bosom—and made him a profound Oriental salaam.
“The Lord of Kingsland gazes in amaze at the uninvited stranger. And yet I think destiny has sent me hither.”
“Who are you?” the baronet demanded. “What jugglery is this? Are you dressed for an Eastern dervish in a melodrama, and have you come here to play a practical joke? I am afraid I can not appreciate the humor of the masquerade. Who are you?” sternly.
“Men call me Achmet the Astrologer.”
“An astrologer? Humph! your black art, it seems, could not protect you from a January storm,” retorted Sir Jasper, with a cynical sneer. “But come in—come in. Astrologer or demon, or whatever you are, you look too old a man to be abroad such a night, when we would not turn an enemy’s dog from the house. The doors of Kingsland are never closed to the tired wayfarer, and of all nights in the year they should not he closed to-night.”
“When an heir is born to an ancient name and a princely inheritance, you speak rightly, my Lord of Kingsland.”