Manetho filled two glasses, and then beckoned Nurse to come from her corner, and drink with him. Forth she hobbled accordingly, looking more than usually ugly by reason of her surprise and embarrassment at the unexpected summons. Manetho, on the other hand, seemed to have cast aside his years, and to be once more the graceful, sinuous, courteous youth, whose long black eyes had, long ago, seen Salome’s heart. With an elegant gesture he handed her the brimming wineglass, accompanying it with a smile which well-nigh shook it from between her fingers. He took up his own glass, and said,—
“I seldom drink wine, Nurse,—never, unless a lady, joins me! Once I drank with her whose chamber our guest now occupies; and once with another—” Manetho paused. “I never speak her name, Nurse; but we loved each other. I did not treat her well!” He murmured with a sigh, tears in his eyes. “Were she here to-night, at her feet would I sue for pardon,—the renewal of our love. By my soul!” he cried, suddenly, “I had thought to drink a far different toast; but let this glass be drained to the memory of the sweet moments she and I have known together! Drink!”
He tossed off the wine. But poor Nurse, strangely agitated, dropped hers on the floor; the precious liquor was spilled, and the glass shivered. She gazed beseechingly at Manetho. Could he not penetrate that mask to the face behind it? Is flesh so miserably opaque that no spark of the inwardly burning soul can make itself felt or seen without? Manetho saw only the broken glass and its wasted contents!
“You are as clumsy as you are ugly!” said he, “Go back to your corner. I must converse with my violin.”
She returned heavily to her place, feeling the darker and colder because that wine had been spilled before she could raise it to her lips. One taste, she fancied, might have begun a transformation in her life! But we know not the weight of the chains we lay upon our limbs.
The Egyptian’s buoyant humor had dismissed the whole matter in another moment. He opened his violin-case, lovingly caressing the instrument as he took it out. Then he tucked it fondly under his chin, and resumed his walking. The delicately potent wine warbled through his nerves, and tinted memory with imagination.
The bow, traversing the strings, drew forth from them a sweet and plaintive note, like the tender remonstrance of a neglected friend. No language says so much in so short space as music, nor will, till we banish those dead bones, consonants, and adopt the pure vowel speech of infants and angels.
“Ay, long have we been apart, my beloved one, and much have I needed thee!” murmured Manetho. “I yearned for thy soothing and refreshing voice; yea, death walked near me, because thou, my preserver, wast not by to guard me. But, rejoice! all is again well with us,—the hour of our triumph is near!”
The fine instrument responded, carolling forth an exquisite paean,—an ascending scale, mounting to a breathless ecstasy, and falling in slower melody along gliding waves of fortunate sound. The player drank each perfect note, till his pulses beat in unison with the rhythm. His violin and he were wedded lovers since his youth, nor had discord ever come between them.