As Manetho prostrated himself, and even touched the hem of Gnulemah’s robe to his forehead, Balder looked to see her recoil; but she maintained a composure which argued her not unused to such homage. So much evil (albeit unintentionally) had the Egyptian done her, that she could suffer, while she slighted, his worship. Yet, in the height of her proud superiority to him, she turned with sweet submission to her lover, and, obedient to his whisper, gathered up her purple mantle and passed through the green conservatory to her own door, through which, with a backward parting glance at her master, she superbly vanished. Balder had disliked the scene throughout, yet his love was greater than before. An awe of the woman whose innate force could command a nature like this priest’s seemed to give his passion for her a more vigorous fibre.
The two men were now left alone to come to what understanding they might. Manetho rose to his feet, obliquely eying Helwyse, and spoke with the manner and tone of true humility,—
“You have seen me in my weakness. I am but a broken man, Balder Helwyse.”
“We had better speak the plain truth to each other,” said Balder, after a pause. “You can have no cause to be friendly to me. I cannot extenuate what I did. I think I meant to kill you.”
“You were not to blame!” exclaimed the other, vehemently, holding up his hands. “You had to deal with a madman!”
“It is a strange train of chances has brought us together again; it ought to be for some good end. I came here unawares, and, but for this ring, should not have known that we had met before.”
“I lie under your suspicion on more accounts than one,” observed Manetho, glancing in the other’s face. “I have assumed your uncle’s name, and the disposal of his property; and I have concealed his death; but you shall be satisfied on all points. The child, too, Gnulemah!—I have kept her from sight and knowledge of the world, but not without reason and purpose, as you shall hear. Ah! I am but a poor broken man, liable, as you have seen, to fits of madness and extravagance. You shall hear everything. And listen,—as a witness that I shall speak truth, I will say my say before the face of Hiero Glyphic yonder, and upon the steps of his altar! See, I desire neither to palliate nor falsify. Shall we go in?”
With some repugnance Helwyse followed the priestly figure through the low-browed door, He had seen too much of men to allow any instinctive aversion to influence him, in the absence of logical evidence. And this man’s words sounded fair; his frank admission of occasional insanity accounted for many anomalies. Nevertheless, and apart from any question of personal danger, Balder felt ill at ease, like animals before a thunder-storm. As he sat down beside his companion on the steps of the black altar, and glanced up at the yellow visage that presided over it, he tried to quiet his mind in vain; even the thought of Gnulemah yielded a vague anxiety!