“Let me tell thee why I rejoice, that thy sympathy may increase my joy!
“A beautiful woman, young, a fountain of fresh life, an ivory vase filled with earthly flowers. The eye that gazes on her form is taken captive; yea, her face intoxicates the senses. But she is poisonous, a queen of death, and her feet walk towards destruction!
“Supple and strong is she as the serpent, quick and graceful as the panther. Food has she for nourishment, for the warming of the blood; exercises for the body, to keep her healthful and fair. Her triumph is in the flesh,—she finds it perfect. The flesh she deems divine,—the earth, a heaven!
“Books, the world of men,—she knows not: sees in herself Creation’s cause and centre; in God, but the myriad reflex of her beauty. Self is her God, whom she worships in thunder and lightning, in sun and stars, in fire and water. Dreaming and waking are alike real to her: she knows not to divide truth from falsehood.
“Whom should she thank for health, for life and birth? She is born of the fire that burns in her own bosom. To her is nothing lawful nor unlawful. No tie binds her soul to salvation. A fair ship is she, but rudderless, and the wind blows on the rocks. Let God save her if He will—and can!”
The inspiration of the Arab improvisatore would have seemed tame beside Manetho’s nervous exaltation. Save for the tingling satire of the violin-strings, his rhapsody might easily have lapsed to madness. From this point, however, his rapture somewhat abated, and he began to descend towards prose, his music clothing him downwards.
“As for me, I have bowed down before her, pampering her insolent majesty, preserving her poison to rancor first in her father’s heart. Of him, death robbed me; but the son,—the brother is left. Even death spared brother and sister to each other!
“A handsome man! worthy to stand by her. Never fairer couple sprang from one stem. They love each other,—and shall love!—more than ever brother and sister loved before. But they shall be bound by a tie so close that the mere tie of blood hangs loose beside it! Then shall night come down on them,—a night no rising sun shall ever chase away. In that; darkness will I speak—”
This devilish monologue ended abruptly here. The faithful instrument, whose responsive sympathy had failed him, jarringly snapped a string! A sting of anguish pricked through Manetho’s every nerve. His fictitious buoyancy evaporated like steam,—he barely made shift to totter to a chair. Laying the violin with tremling hands on the table, his head dropped on his arms beside it; and there was a long, feverish silence.
At length he raised his haggard face, and, supporting it upon his hands, he gazed at the figure in the chimney-corner; and began, in a tone sullen and devoid of animation as November rain,—
“Why did you force yourself upon me?—not for Gnulemah’s sake, I think. Not for money,—you had none. Not for love of me either, I fancy,—grisly harpy!